What I learned from going to the airport during Covid-19
Updated: Oct 1
Flying has always been a little terrifying from an infection control standpoint
As I stand in line for security, my eyes flit to the warning sign beside me. A drawing of a pregnant woman has been crossed out next to a silhouette of a giant mosquito. If it's at scale, we're all going to die. The words say "Zika causes birth defects." I remember Zika. In my cush bubble of suburbia, it's nothing but a bad dream, but in other parts of the world, it's still a dark spectre.
About five feet forward is a sign that warns about MERS. I don't think I even knew to worry about that one. I pull out my phone and am instantly educated about how scary MERS actually is. When a hospital in Korea failed to recognize they had a case of it, one patient managed to spread the illness to 36 people before anyone knew what was happening. From there, 675 were identified as having been exposed to the virus. They called the first patient a Superspreader.
A man coughs behind me and I can see people shifting uncomfortably all around us. Is he a superspreader? The last sign beside the security line is brand new. It tells me to stand five feet behind the person in front of me. This one is about the newest coronavirus. The sign itself is newer, glossier, and positioned at the front of the line. I shift, trying to make room, but by the time any of us had seen this sign, we're already bunched up like sardines.
I'm flying during the height of COVID-19 panic, but I'm also learning that I should have been panicked a long, long time before now.
While the line of travelers has managed to space out through the security gates, they come back together in the line for Starbucks. I start scrolling through the news about COVID-19. Is it like MERS, which has a death rate of around 65%?
What I find is that COVID-19 is mild in some cases. Its death rate is very low (probably between (.5-2%) in comparison to MERS. The US isn't consistently testing suspected patients, only those showing the most severe of symptoms, so our death rate is disturbingly high. The picture becomes clearer in areas like South Korea, which suffered through some of the worst of MERS, where testing and treatment have become an immediate priority. Evidence has surfaced that COVID-19 may even be symptomless at times, which leads me to a startling realization. The question isn't whether the man behind me is a superspreader, it's whether I am.
There's a big responsibility we all have as
fellow humans- we have to try and do as little harm to each other as possible. I think that something people misunderstand is that the clarion calls for hand washing and hygiene are not about protecting you, but about protecting everyone else, too. You may be a super spreader. You may already have it.
And then again, you may never get COVID-19. It's just one of the super fun things to be scared of in the world. If anything, it's a softball lesson in what all of us should be doing, should ALWAYS be doing... protecting each other, doing the least harm possible.
The CDC currently recommends the following precautions for preventing the spread of COVID-19:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
I touch down back home, hands raw from washing them and using hand sanitizer. I don't have all the answers, but I've learned that there are a lot of scarier things out there than COVID-19. Regardless, there is no excuse for spreading disease by ignoring basic hygiene and common decency. Don't be the superspreader.
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