San Francisco becomes first US airport with rapid COVID-19 results for workers

Greg Nash

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will become the first U.S. airport to provide free on-site rapid coronavirus testing for its employees.

SFO announced Monday that it will use Dignity Health’s GoHealth Urgent Care to administer testing inside the airport, with results in about 15 minutes. Airport officials said the goal is to eventually extend the service to passengers.

“Our goal right now is just to get up and running with the employee testing process and understand how that scales up so that it can inform a future decision about the passenger process,” Doug Yakel, public information officer at SFO, told The Hill.

Roughly 45,000 people were working at SFO before the pandemic, though that number has declined in recent months.

The airport soft-launched the testing program in late July, limiting the service to pilots and flight attendants. 

SFO’s announcement comes at the heels of a partnership between Delta Air Lines and CVS Health Return Ready testing, a rapid-response nasal swab test that will be provided to Delta employees in hub crew lounges.

The airport industry, represented by Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), said it supports robust testing systems so long as there are shared costs.

“Airports believe governments around the world should adopt robust testing systems that will allow countries to wind down their quarantine orders and re-open global travel. However, airports themselves should not be forced to bear those costs or operational burdens,” Matt Cornelius, executive vice president of ACI-NA, told The Hill. 

Airports around the country have adopted a patchwork of testing programs. 

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York was the first to open an XpresCheck COVID-19 testing facility, which is managed by wellness company XpresSpa Group. The facility has been testing both employees and travelers but does not provide rapid results. 

Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey opened its own XpresCheck facility on Thursday and plans to make it available to travelers after the initial launch.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles International Airport said it is working to put into place a rapid COVID-19 testing solution. 

The testing “would be available for departing and arriving passengers and airport employees,” the spokesperson said.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), in partnership with local, state and federal health officials, has opened a COVID-19 testing site that is capable of conducting 5,000 tests per day. The results are available within about 72 hours.

Other airports, like those in Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, are among those that aren’t offering on-site testing but are encouraging employees and passengers to get tested before coming to the airport. 

Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport said it requires employees to self-evaluate their health. 

“The Metropolitan Airports Commission requires its employees to conduct a daily self-assessment, including temperature check, each morning before reporting to work, but we do not conduct COVID-19 testing per se,” a spokesperson told The Hill.

Tags Airlines Airports Atlanta California Coronavirus testing COVID-19 CVS Dallas Delta Air Lines Flight Attendants Georgia Houston Minneapolis Minnesota New York New York City Pandemic passengers Pilots Saint Paul San Francisco Texas

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