My personal TOP 12 – How I travel ‘safely’ during the Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak
Corona Virus (COVID-19) has been on everyones's mind since early February. Rightly so as the death toll and high infection risk since its first outbreak in Wuhan has shown.
Airline Bookings for international AND domestic flights have been way down since the last week of February. United is even saying the they would not bring in a positive dollar amount of revenue (as cancellation and refunds exceed new bookings) in March. That's just crazy.
Traveling during the current outbreak is obviously an increased risk. Plane recycle air and there are crowds at airports and in the plane for sure. Plus you do not get to decide where to sit if a plane is full.
The risk profile of the outbreak is especially poor for the elderly but even people under 40 can have serious symptoms.
My personal risk estimate is to take as many precautions as I can but it will not deter me from traveling (within certain limits). Crowds at airports are way down as many flights got cancelled outright or fewer passenger show up for their flight.
I flew from San Francisco International Terminal on Sunday and found it eerily empty. The Skyteam/ Oneworld side of the terminal just had one security line instead of several open and there were more staff members than passengers in the terminal.
However the A330 that Hawaiian Airlines used was filled to capacity with more than 300 passengers.
Given my experience as a former healthcare worker I have taken a number of precautions when traveling that make me feel I have a safe enough environment to travel:
1) Get your (face) mask on (N95 or better)
I know it is hard to buy them at some stores but take the initiative and go to smaller hardware stores and drive a bit around. The better mask have a respirator and a harder shell making for a tight fit and the ability to reuse them several times.
I have a small selection of soft (easier to wear) and harder (better protection) face-masks by now.
Learn how to put on a face-mask properly without cross -contaminating the inside of your mask. As a bonus learn to safely move your mask to drink and eat (not so easy).
I tend to trust the air filters in planes somewhat (especially newer planes) so I take off the mask at times when everyone is settled in.
2) Have plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer handy
I always carried disinfecting wipes but now I stocked up on them and have them in handy ziplock bags. I also bring hand sanitizer (another item that has been known to sell out).
When sitting down I make sure that all areas that I may touch are properly disinfected.
3) Wear glasses (or goggles)
Protecting your eyes against a virus infiltration is important. Any glasses may do but a sealing pair of sunglasses will also make you look cool!
4) Wear a hat
Wear a hat to give you extra protection. Leave it on once you reach your destination. Then either wash or disinfect it.
If you have long hair make sure your hat covers it snuggly.
5) Wear clothing that you easily disinfect/ wash after
I wear normal clothes but I make sure I can wash or disinfect them once I take them off after a flight. If not I bring large plastic bags that can be sealed to separate them from any other fresh clothing.
Another approach is to bring a cheap rain poncho as an outer layer if you feel that washing/ disinfecting can't be done.
To disinfect I bring small pump bottle with 91% alcohol. These are typically under 100ml and you can take them as hand baggage.
6) Travel in Premium Class
Business and First Class (and also Premium Economy) gives you more space and you will likely be more than 6 feet apart from most people in the plane.
7) Wear gloves
I wear latex gloves or thin rubber gloves as much as possible. Make sure that you can still use your electronic devices with them.
8) Wash your hands as often as possible
Soap is likely the best way to kill the virus. Go to the bathroom at least once an hour and wash your hands (or gloves properly).
9) Do not touch your mouth/nose/eyes at ALL times!
Wearing a mask and glasses make this one much easier. Still put your hands away from your eyes, mouth or nose. Meditate if you must - and avoid reflexes - these can be deadly!
10) Stay clam and drop the social anxiety
Do not let fear take over and also make sure you can muster the odd views you will get from other passengers. It's your life and you can make what you like of it.
11) Practice makes perfect
There is no reason to only use your 'full protection protocol' when flying - practice when you take public transport (not a good idea!), or an Uber (better) or in your office.
12) Wipe down phones and other electronic devices regularly (i.e. every few hours)
I made the decision to keep using my phone but go to great length to disinfect it before entering a 'clean area' - i.e. a hotel room or my apartment. Anything that could be a surface area that a virus could latch on needs to be disinfected before making it to your 'clean area'.
Time will tell if these are enough steps to keep me safe. However I have worked in a clinic for some time and have traveled to 127 countries and been exposed to almost every virus and bacteria known to man. So far it has not brought me down and I feel this was due to the precautions I took (sometimes more, sometimes less).
If you feel safe on an airplane even with potential virus cells floating around - you can take advantage of great deals that airlines are pitching with the dropping demand.
Indeed airlines have brought back some fantastic deals with sub $500 International lie-flat Business Class deals - Mighty Travels Premium will alert you instantly once they happen.