Theo and I recently returned from our first domestic trip here in the US – which as we all know, is one of the most “unsafe” countries today regarding Covid-19. We had connecting flights to our destination on the east coast and we started the trip with much trepidation because we were going to visit my family – my 92 year old Uncle and my 85 year old Aunt. They really wanted us to come (Covid-19 be damned….so to speak) because my Uncle is failing.
You can imagine my nervousness. Theo and I HAD to stay safe during this trip to keep THEM safe. Because we have been self-isolating for SO many months now, I knew we were Covid-free. But flying? Changing planes in Dallas? Renting a car in Baltimore? We are frequent travelers as you all know, but this trip sounded daunting. We had no idea what to expect.
I spoke to physician friend and did MUCH research on how to protect ourselves during our travels. As a result of information that I could find, I armed myself with the following: (2) N95 masks, (2) cloth masks, a huge container of Clorox wipes, 12 oz bottle of disinfectant and small bottles of disinfectant for our pockets.
We headed to the airport. Someone was standing at the kiosks with a spray bottle of disinfectant. We had to check in using these kiosks so that we had little contact with the masked and gloved agents at the desk. There were stickers on the floor telling each person where to queue in line – 6 ft apart. It was fast and smooth. It felt good!
Going through security felt very much the same way and we noticed that every single person in the airport wore a mask. A few intrepid travelers wore a mask AND a face shield. Mmmm….looked hot and uncomfortable under there and I’m not sure there was a benefit. 12 oz. bottles of sanitizer are now allowed in your carry-on bags when going through security.
Boarding the plane was very civilized with people social distancing while in the queue. The first thing I noticed on the plane was the smell of disinfectant. Yep. The airlines are sending teams onboard in between flights to thoroughly wipe down the planes. Despite knowing this, I made Theo stand and wait while I pulled out my huge container of Clorox wipes and I cleaned every possible surface including putting the tray tables down, the window, arm rests and head rests.
We took off our cloth masks and put on our N95 masks. They supposedly work a bit better but I am not sure how much – I don’t know if there is any exacting research or information about this. One thing however that my dear physician friend told me, is that you need to be very careful about touching your face and even touching your mask with unclean hands when you put it on and take it off. Think surgery – surgeons don’t touch anything except their sterilized tools. If you want to be really safe, one needs to be cognizant of all the places your hands have been. It’s not the time to be forgetful!
To shorten this already long account, we continued to move through our trip in this way and we felt completely safe the entire time. It was a huge relief! We spent 8 days there, returned home exactly in the same way and just finished our 14-day quarantine in good health. One last thing to mention – the car rental agency had stickers that you needed to break on both the driver and passenger doors stating that the car had been disinfected and aired out. Nevertheless, I gave it a good wipe down and spray for good measure.
What I want you to know about being on the plane is that all commercial airlines are now fitted with HEPA filters that remove 99.9% of the particles down to those as small as 0.01 micrometers from the air. Virus particles range from 0.08 to 0.16 micrometers in size and so these filters successfully capture these particles thus the reason that hospitals use them.
The added turbulence from the filtered air pushes the non-filtered air away. The outside air that is pulled in is sterilized with a high-temperature compressor and ozone purifier. When mixed with existing cabin air, it gets circulated every 2 minutes through an industrial grade HEPA filter. Note: Keep your air vents above your seat open to improve ventilation. The airflow on planes moves from ceiling to floor rather than from front to back and is compartmentalized into sections throughout the cabin which limits the movement of particles along the length of the plane.
Face masks are required on all flights. One must wear a face mask in the airport and plane at all times. Most commercial airlines will ban passengers who refuse to wear masks. This was stated clearly by the flight attendant during her announcement on our flight. You are only allowed to remove a face mask when you eat or drink. Food is no longer served on board unless your flight offers a bag with a bottle of water and snacks.
This may sound counterintuitive, but flying can be safer than going to a restaurant. Airports worldwide now have safety measures in place everywhere – there are hand sanitizer dispensers all over the airports. It is also now believed that “high-touch” surfaces aren’t as common a method of transmission as previously thought.
So here are a few take-aways that you already know: wear a face mask, keep your hands clean and DON’T touch your face until you wash your hands. Theo and I now feel quite safe about getting on a plane in the future (if there’s actually someplace to go – ha). We even got used to wearing the mask on the flight. Wearing a mask is our new reality for the unforeseeable future – whether we travel or not!
Stay safe and healthy!