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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Travelers at Will Rogers airport say 'It smells like Lysol'

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Travelers making their way through Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City Thursday said the terminal has taken on the distinct smell of disinfectant spray. [Chris Landsberger, Oklahoman Archives]
Travelers making their way through Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City Thursday said the terminal has taken on the distinct smell of disinfectant spray. [Chris Landsberger, Oklahoman Archives]

Around noon on Thursday, Summer Bowie was sitting on a bench at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City waiting for her flight back to Los Angeles.

Bowie, a magazine writer, flew in to cover the grand opening of the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, which was scheduled to begin Thursday evening and run into the weekend.

But after a Utah Jazz player was in Oklahoma City for a basketball game against the Thunder Wednesday and tested positive for COVID-19, the art center opening was canceled. And since Bowie was staying in the same hotel the player did, she was told to leave Thursday morning and fly home.

“I definitely am laughing about the fact that we were making jokes at lunch about how we all left L.A. and New York to go to a city with no international travel,” Bowie said. “So we were like ‘we’re in the safest place you could be in in this situation.’ Little did we know we were flying straight to the virus ...

"Everybody should be vigilant about their hygiene, yet at the same time, I feel that stockpiling toilet paper is not going to help the situation. I don’t think that we need to be in a panic just yet because I think that is going to be what creates the chaos that we are so afraid of."

Most travelers at the airport seemed to be going on about their normal business amid growing concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

Joel Lowry said he made plans a few weeks ago to visit a friend in the city. “Everyone seems to be taking precautions. You see masks and gloves everywhere. It smells like Lysol … . As long as you have good hygiene, you don’t stay around sick people, you should be fine."

Leanne Kennedy was flying back to Australia after a business trip. “I think (people) are overconcerned. If you are practicing good hygiene and avoiding people who look like they are sick or coughing, I think you’re going to be OK.”

Karen Carney, spokeswoman for Will Rogers, said they are emphasizing a simple message: Don’t come to the airport if you are sick.

“We’ve put posters and things in our restrooms to remind people to wash their hands and how to not spread the virus,” she said. “We’ve had several meetings with our janitorial staff about the importance of cleaning and wiping down touch points.”

Carney said travel has seemingly slowed down in the last few days with increased media coverage and conversations about the virus.

TSA officials said they have directed “frontline personnel whose security screening tasks require them to routinely come into close contact with the traveling public” to wear masks, wash hands and cover their coughs. They also wear gloves and have put up notices in TSA areas for public information on the virus.

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Kayla Branch

Kayla Branch covers county government and poverty for The Oklahoman. Branch is a native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She joined The Oklahoman staff in April 2019. Read more ›

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