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Inside the mostly empty airport, the voice on the loudspeaker broke the silence. Sparse flights and sparse people meant closed shops. And when travelers left the concourse after arriving Friday, they met members of the National Guard.

The guardsmen took passengers’ temperatures, checked for potential exposure to the novel coronavirus and informed them of Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive for those entering the state for non-work-related reasons to quarantine for 14 days.

“I feel like this is the right thing to do,” Anna Zon Hamburg said after having her temperature taken.

Beginning Friday, 73 National Guard members were positioned at 17 locations across the state to monitor travelers entering Montana via plane and train. At least eight went to the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport and screened the few passengers who were still traveling.

While there’s about 95% less travelers than normal due to the COVID-19 outbreak, airport director Brian Sprenger said, those landing Friday understood why the National Guard was deployed.

“I appreciate everything that’s going on,” said Nick Arakaki after his flight landed. “I’m glad they’re doing this. It’s important to have this here now.”

Zon Hamburg arrived home from Poland via Chicago after spending a month visiting family. Due to restrictions on international flights, she arranged to take a charter to come home.

Arakaki was returning from Hawaii where he spent about eight months caring for family. Following a stop in Seattle, he noted how empty that airport was, too.

Later Friday afternoon, a plane arrived from Seattle with no passengers. Only the flight’s crew was on board.

“Discretionary travel has pretty much dried up. This is all critical travel at this point,” Sprenger said after mentioning the importance of the airport for cargo, medical services and essential workers.

As people left the airport’s concourse Friday, they lined up in front of the soldiers. But those lines were often short and infrequent. Fewer than 10 planes arrived throughout the day, often with the number of passengers in single digits.

Each person only needed a couple minutes to pass through unless their temperature crossed a certain threshold and they required further medical attention.

“There are so few passengers traveling right now,” Sprenger said. “There are more people that come into the state of Montana in five minutes on the interstate than we will have the entire day.”

Even at the state’s busiest airport, Sprenger said the National Guard members will mostly be spending their time waiting.

Both Zon Hamburg and Arakaki said they planned to adhere to Bullock’s guidelines and spend the next 14 days quarantining.

“I think people should be taking this more serious than they do,” Zon Hamburg said. “I think it’s a very good thing what they’re doing now. The quarantine, staying home, it’s the only right thing to do.”

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Paul Schwedelson can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter


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