Airports are a hotbed of viral infections. This is concerning given the spread of COVID-19 aka Coronavirus and, specifically, the potential cases in the cities of Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina.
The Daily Counter was contacted by several Uber and Lyft drivers about Coronavirus concerns. These concerns were centered around the drivers picking up riders from Columbia Airport and Charleston International Airport. Columbia Airport isn't international but can have interchanges with international riders.
The Counter conducted a brief investigation into whether or not South Carolina's airports were ready for the incoming virus. As our reporter discovered the airports either took a lax approach to the virus or didn't provide much information.
On Saturday at 11:49 AM, our reporter called Columbia Airport. In this recorded conversation, our reporter spoke with a representative from airport operations. This representative told our reporter, "Our janitor staff is cleaning twice as much." When asked what the airport specifically was doing to prepare for potential Coronavirus issues the representative said, "Well, we aren't an international airport."
According to USA Today, Columbia Airport may not be an international airport but it does take in and send out flights from several major US cities. These cities include Dallas-Fort Worth, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, and Charlotte. It wouldn't matter if this were an international airport or not. Given the potential opportunity of infection and the number of travelers this airport services every year, the potential for the spread of Coronavirus isn't impossible. It doesn't require an international traveler to carry Coronavirus if the virus is already present in the United States. There are suspected and confirmed cases in some of the cities that this airport services.
Today, our reporter contacted Charleston International Airport about precautions the airport is taking for the virus. The representative told The Counter that the airport was taking various precautions, is in contact with DHEC and other agencies and clean the terminals more thoroughly. From the tone of the representative, the reporter said that this airport was taking COVID-19 seriously. On the airport's website, the first thing someone would see is a picture showing how someone should wash their hands and COVID-19 updates.
For example, unlike Columbia Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) screened passengers for Coronavirus. If the same airport that Columbia Airport receives and takes in travelers from is screening passengers for Coronavirus then why isn't Columbia Airport doing the same?
In January, Robert Redfield, Director of the CDC, said in a press conference that there would be screenings at just 11 airports. Our reporter asked the representative of Columbia Airport about the CDC contacting the airport. The representative said that the CDC never contacted the airport and this is even though this airport takes in passengers from areas that were specifically mentioned by Redfield.
ABC 17 reported that some Columbia Airport travelers were concerned about the virus. Yesterday, ABC 4 reported that SC DHEC is investigating suspected cases of Coronavirus in South Carolina. In Richland County, there was a suspected case of Coronavirus.
The Counter also got in contact with Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The representative from the airport directed our reporter to the CDC's website for updates on plans to prepare for Coronavirus. Recently, the airport and American Airlines announced additional steps and precautions that will be taken to reduce the spread and risk of people contracting the virus. This was more information than was given from the Columbia and Charleston Airports.
According to the CDC, entry into the US by foreign nationals from Iran and China is restricted. These two countries are listed as "Level 3." The CDC offered several recommendations from those entering from places like China or plan to travel to China.
Quoted from the CDC:
China is experiencing widespread community transmission of respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel.
Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease.
Travelers should avoid contact with sick people and clean their hands often by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%–95% alcohol.
Travelers should stay home for 14 days after returning to the United States and practice social distancing.
Travelers that are sick with fever, cough, or have trouble breathing should call ahead before seeking medical care.
[Submitted by Dion McNeil]
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[Submitted by Michael Vanderpool]