Atlanta airport 'burning cash' during coronavirus pandemic, general manager says

The top official at Hartsfield-Jackson says the airport is "burning cash" due to the decline in air travel nationwide.

That falloff in traffic is directly related to the fears about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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In a briefing he gave members of the Atlanta City Council, Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager John Selden said on a typical day the security screeners would check in 70,000 travelers. On Tuesday, they screened only 8,000.

Learn more about the coronavirus outbreak in Georgia

"Our losses, if you ask me, our burn rate is about 50 to 60 percent," Selden said. 

Councilman Antonio Brown wanted to know if it would be cheaper to temporarily close the airport than continue seeing losses. 

"Whether we have to close a building or make other adjustments," the general manager said, "our runways will stay open".

Georgia Coronavirus Hotline available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.: 844-442-2681

Selden cannot make the call to shut down the airport. That would take federal approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

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Since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp has issued a "shelter-in-place" order for groups "at-risk." Groups affected by the order include people living in longterm care facilities, have chronic lung disease, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a positive or are suspected to have a positive test, or who have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

All public schools in the state were ordered closed until March 31. Public gatherings have also been limited to no more than 10 people in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The executive order will also enforce a statewide closure of all bars and nightclubs.

Coronavirus shelter-in-place orders: 'At-risk' groups in Georgia; all residents in Atlanta

Mobile testing sites have been deployed in certain regions of the state, with more on the way. Kemp has said he does not plan to impose any statewide curfews, business closures or forced quarantines. 

Though the governor has not declared a state of emergency for all of Georgia, many local municipalities have.

Monday evening, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order asking all residents of the city of "stay at their place of residence" for 14 days starting at midnight on March 24. The order also urges homeless people to seek out shelter and direct "government and other entities to provide it."

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"Based upon our density & specific needs/concerns in Atlanta, I’ve signed a 14 day Stay at Home Order," the mayor posted on Twitter.