UW News

May 11, 2020

UW dean’s Senate testimony included in ‘Call on White House’ for COVID-19 guidelines for aviation industry

UW News

Hilary Godwin

UW School of Public Health Dean Hilary Godwin.

In a letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) drew upon the testimony by Hilary Godwin, dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, in calling for federal guidelines be established for the aviation industry and the traveling public. 

“At the Senate Commerce Committee hearing (May 6) about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry, Dr. Hilary Godwin testified to the importance of having national guidelines and that no one measure in and of itself will solve this problem, so we need to weave a net of protections to have the biggest impact,” the senator wrote.

“I recognize that air travel is a critical part of our nation’s economy,” Godwin said in her written testimony, submitted to the committee ahead of the hearing, “as we resume air travel, we must prioritize keeping airports, airplanes and the public safe.”

In her letter to Vice President Mike Pence, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Cantwell summarized the safety measures listed by Godwin at the hearing: 

  • Contact and travel information gathering to aid in contact tracing;
  • Communicating to passengers, workers, and the public about good hygiene;
  • Screening individuals for symptoms prior to travel;
  • Minimizing contact between individuals at screening points and during flights;
  • Wearing masks and gloves when appropriate;
  • Frequently cleaning high touch surfaces;
  • Requiring HEPA filters on airplanes;
  • Making hand sanitizer readily available;
  • Requiring passenger, and airport and airline worker attestation to being asymptomatic;
  • COVID-19 testing at airport entry points, once there is widespread availability of inexpensive point-of-care tests.

“As I’ve laid out,” Godwin concluded in her testimony, “we can improve safety by implementing a variety of measures to limit virus transmission throughout the travel continuum. The aviation industry and lawmakers must also work closely with federal, state, territorial and local health agencies to rapidly integrate new information, ensure that communities have the plans, tools and resources to identify potentially exposed individuals during and after air travel, as well as ensure sufficient healthcare capacity in high volume destinations. Public health professionals must be involved in these conversations and throughout the planning process.”