LA Airport Officials Plan for COVID-19 Testing, but Urge No Holiday Travel


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Airport officials today said they plan to increase COVID-19 testing at Los Angeles International Airport by the first week of December.

COVID-19 testing at LAX began Tuesday, and LAWA Executive Director Justin Erbacci said 115 people were tested on the first day, with results confirmed within 24 hours.

Erbacci said LAWA is establishing a modular testing side at LAX's surface Lot 6. With Food and Drug Administration-approved testing kids, those results could be provided within three hours, and two hours for antigen tests.

“We're trying to put in the infrastructure to facilitate and enable those types of testing regimes with the anticipation that ... governments are ultimately going to put (additional plans) in place,'' Erbacci said. “We're working at the same time to push the government, our government, to put these types of practices in place.''

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters Thursday morning that people should only travel if necessary.

“Please continue to abide by public health guidance, including the recent announcements by Mayor (Eric) Garcetti and our Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,'' said Sean Burton, president of the Airport Commission. “This includes only traveling if it is absolutely necessary ... We know that every person has a role in reducing the spread of this virus, and that includes LAWA and all of our partners.''

During a thermal-imaging pilot program that took place from June through August at LAX to detect people who may be infected with the virus, Erbacci said about 50,000 were scanned, with 250 people being flagged for potential infection, but nobody was confirmed to have a fever.

LAWA officials reported Thursday that revenue from air traffic continues to be low due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there have been small signs of recovery.

Tatiana Starostina, chief financial officer of LAWA, said overall passenger numbers are down 79% compared to last year, but that exceeded this year's budget projections for travel, which anticipated the slowdown due to the pandemic.

“We continue to exceed budget projections, so we expected a slower recovery,'' Starostina said during an Airport Commission meeting.

“We're seeing a little bit better pace. What we are also seeing is that domestic passenger travel continues to outpace the international passenger travel. But the good news is that the slope in both trends is positive.''

LAWA reported it is 9.2% below the revenues it expected to see at this point in the fiscal year, and its is about 31% below what it was compared to last year.

“It is important to have this in mind that it is likely ... this fiscal year, we may end up with a negative,'' Starostina said. “It is just an unfortunate consequence of the current state of the industry.''

Part of the shortfalls were due to under-charging for hanger and building fees, but Starostina said LAWA expects to make up shortfalls with the next round of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Recovery Act dollars.

Photo: Getty Images

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