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In “DIA is a COVID-19 security joke,” I summed up my recent experiences at Denver International Airport, where mask use was sporadic and social distancing was poor, partly due to ongoing construction and space shriveled, and on a train ride from a distant gate so crowded that passengers were packed tighter than dippin ‘dots.
I reached out to DIA for a response to my observations, and the airport’s response has put much of the blame for the problems on the travelers, rather than taking responsibility for the often sad situation – which has changed due to the far Widespread confusion about recent problems is likely to worsen Federal Centers’ Guidance for Disease Control and Prevention Regarding Face Covering and Social Distancing.
The CDC’s announcement was first shared in a tweet posted on May 13 at 12:35 p.m. (MDT). In part it says, “If you are fully vaccinated against # COVID19, you can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.” unless required by federal, state, local, tribal, or area law, including local company and workplace guidelines. “
The fine print includes settings such as airports. Following the announcement, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told NPR, “At this time we still have to wear masks when you travel on buses, trains and other public transport, as well as airports and train stations.”
Given the many opportunities for those fully vaccinated against trench masks, the ongoing mandate at airports was easy to miss. That could lead to a lot of conscientious, fully vaccinated people showing up with bare faces at DIA, as well as unvaccinated people who hated the old mask rule and are now breaking the new one with a proven technique: lies.
Against this background, DIA spokesman Alex Renteria responded to our request as follows:
“DEN remains under the federal mask mandate, which was extended until September 13,” emphasizes Renteria. “Our team members are still monitoring passengers around the airport and reminding them to wear their masks appropriately. It is important to note that we are relying more than ever on the personal responsibility of passengers traveling through DEN like this our passenger traffic has increased to pre-pandemic levels. “
Beginning last October, DIA launched a program called VeriFLY, which was initially announced as a “new pilot program that enables health-conscious travelers to move safely through security and to their gate with greater reliability and less contact.” In order to take advantage of the VeriFLY features, it was recommended that participants do the following:
• Download the VeriFLY app and create an account
• Make reservations in advance of your flight for the TSA screening (you can make your reservation up to two weeks before your flight and have a 15-minute window to arrive at the checkpoint).
• Approximately 24 hours before your flight, you will be asked to complete a COVID-19 health assessment to ensure that you are fit to fly
• Check in with your airline on the day of your flight, then get onto the VeriFLY lane at the South Screening Checkpoint at your reserved time. A non-contact electronic gate will scan your access code and check your temperature before you can access the dedicated TSA lane
• Then go through the TSA screening (standard and PreCheck lanes available).
• When the verification process is complete, go to the platform and board the designated car with a limited number of VeriFLY passengers who will take you to your concourse.
• Travelers who have not successfully completed the health screening questionnaire or who have a temperature above 100.4 will not be placed on the VeriFLY lane. In addition, all DEN travelers and employees, including those using VeriFLY, require face masks or drapes to cover their nose and mouth.
These security measures were impressive – but they are gone now. The VeriFLY program ended on April 30th, in part due to issues related to the specific wagon.
“We are assuming that passenger traffic will continue to recover,” stated Renteria. “That’s why we need all the wagons to move the passengers back and forth. During the pandemic, DEN drove as many wagons as possible (even if the passenger traffic was very low). When we get back to the level before the pandemic, the VeriFLY free With the wagon, people can spread out better in all wagons. “
Here are the latest train tips from Renteria:
• “At peak times, trains run every 2-3 minutes. If one train is too full, wait for the next.”
• “Move to the center of the platform instead of waiting for a car at the end. Usually the cars in the center are less crowded.”
• “Consider going over the A-Bridge on Level 6. If you are flying out of or into an A-Gate, you no longer have to fully board the train. However, if you fly into or out of an A-Gate C Gate, you will still cut your travel time. “
• “The times for busy trains are usually short. If you find that there are a lot of people on the platform, you should wait a few minutes at the top of the platform for the backup to be deleted.”
• “During busy ‘banks’ several flights land at the same time, which means that several groups of people are trying to get to the terminal. When your flight lands, take an extra 5-10 minutes in the hall (use the toilet, stretch your legs, maybe have a coffee) before heading to the train. You will likely see a less crowded train if you give it a few minutes. “
Be prepared to solve these construction problems in the years to come.
“The gate expansion project laid the cornerstone in 2018,” Renteria notes. “Construction work for all expansion work is expected to be largely complete by the end of 2021 and the gates will be operational in 2022. Phase 2, Concourse Renewal, will be completed in 2024.”
And while “Phase 1 of the Great Hall project will be completed by the end of this year,” he adds, the second phase of the project will “be completed in the second quarter of 2024”.
Click here for a detailed timeline of the Great Hall Project and more information on expanding the gate. The pages will give you a better idea of what DIA’s flight will be like after the pandemic ends – and prepare you for some of the challenges you will face while they are still on.
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Michael Roberts has been writing for Westword since October 1990 and has worked as a music editor and media columnist. It currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.