OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday called on the federal government to create a national aviation screening system to protect airline passengers against the new coronavirus.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Inslee wrote that a federal response is necessary for people to be protected from COVID-19 and to have confidence in the safety of air travel.
“It is clear that if we hope to restart the U.S. economy in a manner that is safe and responsible, without significant interstate spread of COVID-19, we will need a comprehensive national aviation screening system,” wrote the governor. “I respectfully request that you prioritize implementation of guidance, regulations, and resources to implement this system.”
Inslee in the letter laid out what he considered to be minimum standards for such a system. They include temperature checks for passengers and symptom screenings for passengers, as well as a requirement that both workers and passengers wear face coverings.
Other suggestions include frequent cleaning at airports, and the collection of contact information for passengers and travel details. That information could later be used by contact tracers to inform a passenger if someone in close contact tested positive for the virus.
The governor also asked that COVID-19 tests be offered at airports for all passengers arriving from other countries, as well as for any individuals showing mild symptoms consistent with the virus.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would provide nearly 100 million cloth facial coverings to passengers on various types of transit, including 86.8 million to be distributed at airports.
In a news release, however, the federal agency said availability isn’t guaranteed and passengers are responsible for following mask guidance issued by the airports and airlines they are patronizing.
The worldwide economic downturn caused by the virus, along with the suspension by governments of international flight routes, has battered air travel.