Home Airports Coronavirus Threat At ATL Isn’t Just To/From Travelers & Employees

Coronavirus Threat At ATL Isn’t Just To/From Travelers & Employees

by SharonKurheg

U.S. airports are seeing an unprecedented decrease in passengers, but there are those who still fly. It could be a family emergency. Some have to travel for work-related matters where there’s no other choice. Or it could be people like my friends, who had to get back to Florida after their “healthy” cruise ship finally was allowed to disembark in San Diego.

In early April, Trump was considering grounding flights between “hot spot” cities but seemed hesitant to shut down the entire commercial aviation industry in the name of coronavirus. So for now, at least, airports are remaining open.

The TSA lists where TSA officers have tested positive for coronavirus. Airports hopefully keep tabs on their employees and make them stay home if they’re ill. There’s no way to know how many passengers who are positive for COVID are in airports or on planes at any given time. But one would hope with wearing mask-like coverings on their noses and mouths, along with social distancing in the airport and the planes, it’s not as bad of an issue as could otherwise be.

But there’s one more group of people who could be a threat to make at least one airport its own COVID hotspot.

The homeless population.

Homeless shelters across the country have closed, or at least cut down on how many people can stay there, because the way they’re set up (room sharing, cafeteria-style meals, etc.) isn’t conducive for adequate social distancing. So the homeless in some cities, looking for a safe place to sleep, charge their phones and have access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, are turning to public areas of airports.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has seen a significant spike in the number of homeless people who shelter there – upwards of 200 or more per night.

Airport officials are working with HOPE Atlanta, a non-profit organization that serves low-income travelers, Veterans, newcomers and residents in crisis. Unfortunately, they’re not prepared to handle that sort of volume and many of the homeless people refuse their help. So although the airport, outreach teams and the city are looking at and offering other alternatives, to some extent, everyone’s hands are tied.

A percentage of the homeless population appears to be aware of the COVID threat and do their best to distance themselves from others. Others have mental illnesses that may impede them from making appropriate social choices, and those are generally the ones airport staff are the most concerned about in terms of spreading the virus.

Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown told a representative from to WSB-TV that some homeless people have been tested for coronavirus at the airport and moved into isolation. But of course, there’s a nationwide shortage of testing kits. So there’s always the possibility that someone has the virus and hasn’t been tested to get the actual diagnosis. Or those who have it and are asymptomatic.

A hotel in the downtown Atlanta area that will be earmarked for homeless isolation and quarantine is set to open. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has also signed an executive order that will allow the city to match private donations to provide more shelter options for the homeless (the latter happened the day after the WSB-TV report was televised, BTW). But it’s not clear if either of those options will be used to address the population staying in the airport right now.

Atlanta has had a homeless problem for years and, as it is in many cities, it’s generally been given not enough attention. That lack of doing much appears to be biting them in the butt now.

#stayhealthy #stayathome #washyourhands

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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