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Coronavirus putting the brakes on Easter holiday weekend travel

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Reynolds issued an order of PPE shortage throughout the state.

Des Moines Register

Iowans are taking advice to stay at home seriously, with all forms of travel dropping significantly ahead of the usually busy Easter weekend.

Des Moines International Airport reported Friday that it had seen a decline in passenger traffic through the first week of April, continuing an unprecedented decrease that began in March with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Only 1,307 passengers flew in and out of the state’s largest airport between April 1 and April 7, according to airport spokesperson Kayla Kovarna — a roughly 95% decrease compared to the same time last year. Des Moines International also is expecting more than 575 fewer flights this month.

March’s numbers showed a 44% year-over-year decrease. The drop began March 12, the same day the growing coronavirus pandemic prompted the closure of Walt Disney World and the cancellation of trips by Princess Cruises. Daily decreases were as large as 94% compared to 2019, when March was a record-shattering month.

What’s more, 96 departures were canceled between March 27 and March 31 alone due to the drop in demand. Despite the drop-off in flights, however, Des Moines International remains open as an essential service for commercial travel as well as air cargo.

“We have anticipated flight cancellations and schedule reductions due to the lack of passenger traffic,” the airport announced in a statement. “We can expect to see low passenger numbers linger as we continue to practice social distancing and follow stay-at-home recommendations.”

Other forms of travel also have slowed to a crawl.

Road traffic volume in Iowa is about 50% below normal, Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla told the Des Moines Register, though he said commercial truck traffic has remained constant.

“We can definitely see that Iowans are taking the governor’s word of stay at home,” Dinkla said. “With the low traffic counts, we’re definitely seeing that.”

Speeding, however, is up.

“We have seen an increase in very high speeds,” Dinkla said, including a 40% increase in drivers going 100 mph or faster.

“One of the things we’ve been commonly hearing from people we’ve pulled over is that, ‘We didn’t think you were out here stopping cars,’ ” he said.

Burlington Trailways, a motor coach company with routes throughout Iowa, said buses from Des Moines to Chicago are running more than half empty. Currently, seats on the Chicago run are at 34% of capacity, a spokesperson said, while the return route is at just 24% capacity.

Ridership for Amtrak, which runs two trains through Iowa, is down by as much as 90%, said spokesman Marc Magliari.

Cody Goodwin normally covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register, but is assisting with coverage of COVID-19. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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