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The Changes Coming To Tampa International Airport To Reduce Coronavirus Risk

A man stands at the ticket counter of JetBlue while his luggage is checked by two airline employees wearing masks.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
"TPA Ready" is a comprehensive, airport-wide effort, is designed to slow and stop the spread of germs and viruses.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to reshape daily life, Tampa International Airport has begun to make changes and preparations for the return of passengers and other personnel in this time of uncertainty. 

After alluding to the changes last week, airport CEO Joe Lapano made the official announcement  Wednesday, dubbing the airport-wide effort as, “TPA Ready.”

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

The list includes mandates that call for social distancing, use of face coverings, plastic shield barriers, surface disinfection, and touchless transactions.

Airport officials will be urging these practices to employees and passengers in order to slow or stop the spread of potential germs and viruses. 

“While we know there’s an eagerness among our travelers and employees to resume our normal lives again, that new normal may look very different than what we we’re accustomed to pre-COVID 19,” Lopano said in a news release. “Keeping people safe is always our top priority at TPA, and as people plan to come back, we want to ensure we are offering an environment that is clean, healthy, and ready for business.”

The changes being implemented in the coming weeks are the inclusion of plastic shields, face masks for all employees, social distancing markers, reduced seating, and an increase in cleaning and sanitation. 

A colorful infographic describing the best way to navigate safely and how to stay healthy at the airport.
Credit Tampa International Airport / Tampa International Airport
Tampa International Airport
The above infographic lays out the plan for "TPA Ready," calling for the best practices of social distancing, mask usage, plastic shield barriers, surface disinfection, and touchless transactions.

In addition to the changes enacted, airport officials are urging passengers and guests to adhere to CDC guidelines. 

These include wearing a face covering while at the airport, planning to arrive early in order to not create unwanted clusters, and to use carry-on luggage and mobile boarding passes to limit touchpoints. 

"We've reduced touch points by encouraging more mobile boarding passes,” Lopano said last week. “Encouraging using carry-on luggage only, which reduces contact at the ticket counter and contact at the baggage claim. We've increased cleaning frequently."

Empty chairs in an empty terminal at Tampa International Airport.
Credit Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
Seating at TPA will be reduced, blocked off or spaced apart in places like gate areas, dining areas, work stations, and within the Main Terminal greeting sections to promote distancing.

Those picking up or dropping off passengers should not enter the main terminal. 

Instead, they are being asked to use the cell phone lot or to stay in their vehicles in the short-term garage. 

Those assisting with unaccompanied minors, passengers with disabilities, or others who need help are exempt.

Lopano, a member of one of the Gov. Ron DeSantis' task force work groups looking at reopening the state,  says they're prioritizing health and social distancing as they plan for the return of passengers and other business.

Thomas Iacobucci is the WUSF visual news intern for the fall 2019 semester. He is currently a senior at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where he is completing his bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Digital Communication.