Los Angeles International Airport has been designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as one of 13 airports that will screen Americans and their immediate families returning from a list of restricted countries for the coronavirus.
"Flights departing after 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, March 13, 2020, and covered by the arrival restrictions regarding the countries of the Schengen Area are required to land at one of the airports identified in this document," according to a federal directive issued late Friday by the DHS. "These arrival restrictions will continue until canceled or modified by the Secretary of DHS."
The countries in the Schengen Area are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Passengers who have to be rerouted due to the emergency regulation will not have to bear any extra costs, according to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf.
"I understand this new process will be disruptive to some travelers, however this action is needed to protect the general public from further exposure and spread of the coronavirus," Wolf said.
Meanwhile, LAX appeared nearly deserted Saturday morning, with some observers saying they hadn't seen it so empty since the days after 9/11.
The Central Terminal Area has been closed to the public every day between midnight and 5 a.m. to allow cleaning crews to perform maintenance; however, officials said this action is not a response to the coronavirus outbreak.
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The nighttime closure policy has been in the works since well before the COVID-19 virus was discovered, LAX officials said, and although the closures are not a response to the virus, they will allow crews to better access all "high-contact" areas and restrooms for cleaning and sanitizing.
LAX officials say they're taking the following measures to protect against the spread of coronavirus:
- installing more than 250 additional hand sanitizer stations throughout terminals;
- cleaning public areas and restrooms at least once per hour using virus and bacteria-killing disinfectants;
- increasing deep cleaning throughout the airport, focusing on "high-touch" areas like handrails, escalators, elevator buttons and restroom doors;
- coordinating with contractors to ensure that their cleaning crews are following the same protocols;
- adding signage to high-traffic areas, including areas with passengers, with information on how to reduce the spread of illness and symptoms of the coronavirus;
- disinfecting and cleaning LAX Shuttle fleet at minimum three times per day.