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Harvard study gives airports high marks in COVID safety

Spirit Airlines Travelers at John Glenn International Airport

A new study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that health and safety measures by airports are significantly contributing to reduced risk of COVID-19 transmission.

While the study acknowledges there are risks involved with any activity in public spaces, researchers say the aviation industry has applied scientific and engineering prowess to implement measures that reduce risk.

“[Airports] are making concerted efforts to reduce the risk from SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the airport environment as it relates to the curb-to-curb traveler experience. They’re employing a whole range of different risk-mitigation strategies, for passengers, for employees, for their concessionaires, the contractors, and visitors. … Collectively these efforts are playing an important role in providing these layers of protection for risk mitigation.” – research associate Wendy Purcell

For Columbus airports, those efforts include increased sanitization, plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizer stations, distancing markers and touchless parking. Additionally, John Glenn Columbus International earned the GBAC STAR facility accreditation, the cleaning industry’s gold standard for sanitization protocols.

The report also emphasizes the role of passengers in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Below are the top 10 recommendations outlined for passengers to follow at the airport and on the plane.

At the airport:

  • Familiarize yourself with testing and quarantine requirements prior to traveling.
  • Don’t fly if you’re sick.
  • Don’t fly if you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Plan your trip through the airport – those steps from the curb to the gate – maintaining physical distance.
  • Wear your mask at all times and do not remove it except for very short periods to eat or drink.
  • Disinfect hands after touching surfaces such as check-in kiosks, TSA security bins, or bathroom fixtures.
  • Minimize time in restrooms and avoid crowded restrooms.
  • Avoid crowded areas, such as boarding gates, until time to do so. Find less crowded areas to wait.
  • Politely remind others to wear face masks, or alert an airport employee.
  • On arrival, maintain distance when retrieving checked bags.

On the plane:

  • Follow flight crew instructions while on board the aircraft.
  • Maintain six-foot distance before and after boarding the plane, such as on the jet bridge.
  • Keep reasonable distance when stowing and removing overhead luggage.
  • Clean hands and your immediate area, including tray tables, armrests and other high touch areas.
  • Wear masks at all times during flight, except very short times to eat or drink.
  • Politely remind others to wear face masks, or call a flight attendant.
  • Avoid face touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid congestion in the aisles throughout the trip.
  • Alert a flight attendant if someone is symptomatic.
  • Keep hydrated during long flights, but only briefly remove your face mask.

Learn more and access the full study.

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