GREAT FALLS — As the world continues to deal with the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), travel has become one of the hottest topics among health officials and concerned citizens alike.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has provided many resources and outlets for information to keep the public aware of how to stay safe during this outbreak. When it comes to travel, there are four levels of recommended travel restrictions.
Hong Kong is Level 1, limited community transmission. This means that anyone traveling there should practice usual health precautions, such as washing your hands, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
Japan is Level 2, sustained community transmission. The CDC recommends that travel may remain unrestricted as usual except for older adults or anyone with chronic medical conditions.
South Korea and Italy are Level 3, widespread sustained transmission. All nonessential travel to these countries should be avoided, according to the CDC.
Finally, China and Iran are the highest level, widespread sustained transmission and restrictions on entry to the United States. The U.S. Department of State has Level 4 Travel Advisories on these two countries as well, listing them as “Do Not Travel.” Those advisories were both put into place in February. In January, President Trump signed an order temporarily barring anyone other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents that have traveled to China in the last two weeks. According to the State Department, most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes into and out of China for the time being.
Now, let’s talk about Montana.
According to Great Falls International Airport director John Faulkner, there is no need for anyone in the region to be concerned at this time. The airport has been in contact with the City-County Health Department, and is prepared in the case that someone should arrive in Great Falls showing symptoms of the virus, but that has not happened as of Tuesday, March 4th.
As for potential flight changes and cancellations, that decision remains up to the airlines, not the airport: “It’s always the airlines, so obviously always keep in touch with your airline,” said Faulkner. “It’s more likely to be weather than anything else, but it’s a great idea to sign up for their apps and accept their text messages so you get up to date information on what’s going on with your flight.”
Faulkner assured everyone that there is currently no need to cancel your travel plans, as long as they do not overlap with any of the countries listed by the CDC above. He also said that if someone was to arrive in Great Falls and showed signs of COVID-19, there are emergency plans in place.
“For many years after 9/11, we’ve included things like biohazards and things like that, and I think it’s been more than a decade that airports have had pandemic in their plan,” he explained. “Every airport that receives commercial flights is required to have an emergency plans, and most of those emergency plans address those specific situations.”
For more information about the Coronavirus, including symptoms, prevention, and travel recommendations, click here to visit the CDC website.