Cincinnati airport passenger traffic slows to a crawl during COVID-19

Posted at 8:12 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 21:35:54-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

HEBRON, Ky, - Tinnecha Richey is a travel nurse flying from her home here across the country to treat COVID-19 patients. She can’t believe how empty the airports are.

"I've never seen it like this,” Richey said as she stood in front of empty ticket counters at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

“Before here, I flew into Chicago. You know how O’Hare is. It was a ghost town. Yeah, weird.”

Airport traffic is dwindling daily, and CVG is preparing for more loss as we approach what is usually a busy travel season.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear only want essential workers like Richey traveling during the COVID-19 crisis. That restriction took effect on March 30 with no end date.

Before then, CVG says, its passenger count was 11,000 to 14,000 per day. Now it’s several hundred.

“Things have just really gotten down to the very bare bones," said CVG spokesperson Seth Cutter.

Cutter says the airport is preparing for hard times by cutting certain operational expenses, like shutting down moving walkways to save on the power bill and delaying capital projects.

It has not laid off anyone.

Cutter says one thing protecting CVG from money problems is the decision to build up cargo revenue and develop property for shipping companies over the last decade.

“So we definitely are very well positioned financially,” Cutter said, “but to say that this is not impacting the bottom line would be disingenuous.

CVG says airline workers and store employees are feeling the pinch. Air Canada and Vacation Express suspended all flights March 25. There's a flight board full of cancellations.

“There's no one on the airplane,” Richey said.

But Richey has to travel, so business goes on.

Signs here warn: Don't travel if you feel sick. Cleaning staff are constantly wiping, hoping to keep nurses like Richey healthy enough to care for us.

"We still have to fly, so …" Richey said.

Things change pretty quickly at CVG, so the airport officials are updating their website with any airlines that are closing, flight cancellations, and cleaning routines.

CHECK for the latest CVG information here.

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.