Across the US, the number of people traveling by plane has dropped significantly as the coronavirus pandemic has forced millions to stay indoors — and the mayor of Los Angeles says 95% of air travel has stopped in his city.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said it’s the biggest drop in flights in Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) history. Los Angeles has the fourth busiest airport in the world, according to Garcetti. LAX is the number one busiest airport in this country of origination and destination, he said during a news conference Thursday.
He talked about how devastating this will be for the city and recalled how during 9/11, plane travel dropped about 55% and it took 10 years to come back.
Last week, Transportation Security Administration officers screened just shy of 95,000 people at airport checkpoints across the US, a dramatic drop from the 2.3 million who passed through on the equivalent day in 2019. The numbers are at a 10-year low, according to the agency.
The drop in passengers and orders across much of the country to stay at home have caused airlines to cut 71% of their capacity, according to Airlines for America, an industry group that represents carriers such as American, Delta, Southwest and United.
Only about one in every 10 seats on the US domestic planes that do fly are occupied, the group says.
How will LA recover?
The City of Los Angeles is expected to receive more than $323 million from the CARES Act. This will help maintain the vital infrastructure and keep employees on the job as the city recovers from this crisis, Garcetti said.
In addition, airlines and their contractors are receiving $29 billion in federal funds from the legislation. Garcetti explained that a condition of these funds will be to retain almost all of their employees through September 30.
Los Angeles has expanded its coronavirus testing capacity and is now able to test 11,000 people per day. By the end of Thursday, approximately 61,000 people across all testing sites will had been tested.
“We have the capacity today to do more than half the tests that California did in the last 24 hours. That’s something Los Angeles and Southern California can be very proud of,” the mayor said.
“We get the job done and we do it ahead of schedule,” he added. In a week from Thursday, 90,000 people will have been tested.
Testing is important as the number of cases and deaths continue to rise in Los Angeles. The county has seen record deaths for three days in a row.
“Just because the curve is bending, it doesn’t mean that we’re not adding new cases and deaths,” Garcetti said.
During Thursday’s news conference, which was held at a testing site in South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Fire Department announced the launch of a new telemedicine program.
Through this program, the emergency dispatch center is able to screen coronavirus patients and other individuals who call 911 with non-life threatening issues.
Mayor Garcetti explained that this has two benefits. It reduces potential emergency room crowding that a transport who may not have the virus might bring to a hospital. In addition, this decreases the chance of exposure to the virus for first responders.