What you need to know about LAX public health measures, COVID risks amid spike in holiday travel

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020
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Despite the pandemic, LAX and other airports around the country are seeing an influx as millions of Americans head to their holiday destinations -- intensifying COVID-19 concerns.

Despite the pandemic, LAX and other airports around the country are seeing an influx as millions of Americans head to their holiday destinations -- intensifying COVID-19 concerns.

COVID-19 has forced many people to stay home for the holidays, but the potentially deadly virus has also prompted travelers to weigh the risks of flying.

"They say there's supposed to be less people on the plane, so. Plus, we have the baby, so obvious concerns there," said Shane Read.

RELATED: Holiday travel increasing dramatically despite public health warnings amid COVID surge

The Transportation Security Administration reported on Monday less than 955-thousand people traveled nationwide -- the first time since Dec. 18 the number has dipped below 1 million travelers.

TSA agents screened more than 1 million people for three consecutive days over the start of the holiday travel season. For perspective, that number is down more than half from last year.

"Our crowds right now are down. We've seen about a quarter of what we normally do this time of year. Over the past couple of days, we have seen an uptick, up to about 30%, so we're seeing 40,000 people going through TSA screening," said Stephanie Sampson, L.A. World Airports Administration spokesperson.

Los Angeles International Airport says so far this month, passenger traffic is just 26% of what it was the same time last year -- but the TSA says the numbers across the nation are increasing dramatically.

The airport is working to protect passengers who are flying.

One of those ways is by providing personal protective equipment vending machines. The machines are spread across LAX terminals, and flyers will also see them at Hollywood Burbank Airport and Long Beach Airport.

"You can buy it, actually, without touching the machine. Everything is through your mobile device or through credit card," Sampson said.

RELATED: Holidays could intensify COVID surge, force LA County medical facilities to 'go under'

It's protection that is offered for travelers who didn't come as prepared as Katie McIlhaney of Camarillo, who was traveling to Denver Tuesday morning with her father.

"We have hand sanitizer, gloves, I don't know, just masks ... trying not to drink water last night and today, trying not to use the bathroom," she said.

Katie McIlhaney her father said they weighed the travel risks.

"We're rolling the dice a little bit, but we're just hoping we have a good, safe time," said Jason McIlhaney.

AAA says the vast majority of travelers will be hitting the road.

Eighty-five million people are expected to travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3, the prime time for Christmas and New Year's travel -- most doing so by car.

Some travelers at LAX, though, say they feel safe flying.

"Take all the safety precautions. I've been on the front lines for a while for this, and this is the time I needed to take a little break before going back on the front line," said Reggie Jones of Long Beach.

Meanwhile, concern is growing after a coroner's report confirmed a United Airlines passenger who collapsed on a packed flight from Orlando to LAX died of acute respiratory failure and COVID-19.

The report was released Monday by the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office in Louisiana, and says the 69-year-old L.A. resident died at Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner at 9:09 p.m. Dec. 14.

RELATED: United passenger on flight to LAX died of COVID-19, respiratory failure, coroner says

United Flight 591 from Orlando to LAX was diverted during a medical emergency after a man suffered what was initially deemed a heart attack. The plane had to make an emergency landing in New Orleans.

Several passengers with medical experience stepped in to help resuscitate the man, including Tony Aldapa, an EMT who performed CPR on the passenger. Aldapa is now concerned that he may have contracted the potentially deadly virus.

He has since tested negative once and is awaiting results from a second test.

Passengers are questioning why the man was allowed to board the flight. They are all sharing the same story, saying the man's wife said her husband had tested positive for COVID-19 the week prior and displaying coronavirus-like symptoms.

United Airlines says passengers must certify that they do not have COVID-19 or any symptoms before they are allowed to board.