Traveling amid Covid-19 concerns

Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 6:44 PM AKST
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There’s a storm of information about Covid-19 spreading around the world that is making a lot of people uneasy around the globe. With spring break coming up this month for schools everywhere, travel is becoming even more of a concern.

Here in Alaska, there are still no confirmed cases of the illness. However, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said they are testing for the virus now. She said three samples have been sent for analysis with two coming back negative and one being under investigation.

For all potential cases, she said they take a look at the patients travel history.

“If we get a positive case, we do this really invested investigation to figure out; did they fly on a plane; what seat were they on; who was next to them?” she said.

From there, they find the people who were physically close to those potential cases and local organizations to figure out if there is potential spread.

With multiple deaths confirmed in Seattle, Ted Stevens International Airport Manager, Jim Szczesniak said he understands why people are worried. However, he said for now people should not be overly cautious when traveling domestically.

“Seattle is our most important hub that we’ve got and about 17 flights a day come between here and Seattle,” he said.

Those 17 flights don’t account for the number of connections made for people flying through Seattle to go other places in the country.

Szczesniak said Ted Stevens and airports in Seattle are working together to monitor any potential spread. There’s no new cleaning protocol in place as a response, but he said the standard they have for the terminal takes aim at a number of communicable diseases.

“Coronavirus is the new flavor of the month right now,” he said, “but on a regular basis we have influenza A, rotavirus, influenza B, all the other things that potentially come through the airport at some point.”

Szczesniak also reminds that the airport has been through a number of public health events similar to Covid-19 with things like SARS and MERS, so he said they have procedures in place to deal with this one.

While the Airport continues to work with other airports and the CDC and DHSS, Szczesniak said they haven’t seen a lot of booking changes with spring break approaching other than a lot of cancelled flights to Asia.

The actual airlines are responding as well. In a blog post Monday, Alaska Airlines announced they will be ‘enhancing aircraft cleanings between flights’ and suspending warm towel service in first class for at least the next two weeks.

The airline also recently announced

while other airlines are taking similar measures.

If you are planning to travel soon, Dr. Zink said you should just take care of your body. Eat well, drink lots of fluids, wash your hands regularly, cough into your elbow, and stay at home if you are sick.

She also pointed out if traveling internationally, there could be things other than getting sick that could happen to you.

“We can’t control what other countries do,” she said, “so if you travel to another country, they could close down the borders, they could say you’re not allowed in or not allowed out.”