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Goggles, Masks, Ponchos: Air Travel in the Thick of a Pandemic


SAN FRANCISCO — The thought of getting on a plane is far from most people’s minds at the moment, as they shelter in their homes. But some people have no choice but to fly now, whether it is returning from a long trip or rushing to leave a country as a visa expires.


In the days of the coronavirus, travelers are often taking extreme precautions to protect themselves. They wear anything from plastic ponchos to laboratory goggles to biohazard suits. They wipe down tray tables and arm rests with disinfectant. Some passengers say they avoid using the lavatory, even on long transcontinental flights, believing there is a higher risk of infection there. Many pack their own food, and keep their protective gear on even as they sleep.


Lacking definitive information about how long the virus might linger on clothing or even one’s own hair, they reasoned that more protection was better than less.


When Billy Chan flew home to Hong Kong from London in mid-March, he wore a disposable protective suit, goggles and an N95 mask. He changed his mask twice during the 13-hour flight, using hand sanitizer each time.
月中旬,比利·陈(Billy Chan,音)从伦敦飞回香港时穿着一套一次性防护服,戴着护目镜和N95口罩。在13个小时的飞行中,他换了两次口罩,每次都用了洗手液。


“I didn’t see anyone go on or off the plane without a mask,” said Mr. Chan, who needed to return to Hong Kong to renew his visa to Britain. Most passengers, he reported, wore goggles or sunglasses as well.


“I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink, I didn’t wander around on the plane,” he said.


Stacie Tan, who flew to her home in Malaysia from Oregon on April 1, wore goggles, gloves and a mask on the plane.
今年41日,斯塔西·陈(Stacie Tan,音)从俄勒冈州飞往马来西亚的家中。她在飞机上戴着护目镜、手套和口罩。


“I knew that someone might look at me and laugh,” Ms. Tan said. “It’s better than lying in the hospital, right?”


The model Naomi Campbell posted a photo of herself on Instagram accessorized in pink surgical gloves, a turquoise face mask and baggy white coveralls, the kind normally worn when removing asbestos.
模特娜奥米·坎贝尔(Naomi Campbell)Instagram上发布了一张自己的照片,照片中她戴着粉色的手术手套和蓝绿色口罩,穿着宽松的白色防护服,这种防护服通常是在去除石棉时穿的。


Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne disease transmission at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, said it made sense to wear protective gear on an airplane, given the tight quarters.
弗吉尼亚理工学院(Virginia Polytechnic Institute)的空气传播疾病专家林西·马尔(Linsey Marr)说,考虑到机舱空间狭小,在飞机上穿戴防护装备是有意义的。


“I think the most important thing to do would be to wear a face covering, a mask of some sort,” said Dr. Marr, who studies how viruses spread in the air. “Goggles aren’t a bad idea, especially if they will prevent you from touching your eyes.”


While a full-body protective suit “can’t hurt,” she said, the most important thing is to cover your nose and mouth, wash your hands a lot and avoid touching your eyes.


“Certainly, I wouldn’t want to sit next to, or right in front of, or right behind someone else,” Dr. Marr said.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not explicitly advise against flying, but it does warn that “crowded travel settings” could increase a person’s chances of infection, and there are few travel settings as crowded as a sold-out flight.
美国疾病控制与预防中心(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)并没有明确建议不要坐飞机,但它确实警告说,拥挤的旅行环境可能会增加感染几率,而满座航班的拥挤自然是无出其右的。


“Depending on your unique circumstances, you may choose to delay or cancel your plans,” the agency says.


What it means to fly safely in the face of the coronavirus threat is likely to evolve in the coming months. Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, announced last week that it had begun conducting rapid coronavirus tests on passengers waiting to board, and said it hoped to scale up the practice to cover more flights.


Alaska Airlines says it is keeping all middle seats vacant in economy class on its flights through May.


American Airlines and United Airlines, the two largest American carriers, did not respond to queries about their policies or recommendations concerning personal protective gear.
美国最大的两家航空公司美国航空(American Airlines)和美国联合航空公司(United Airlines)没有回应记者有关个人防护装备准则或建议的询问。


Brian Parrish, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, said the most common protective gear worn by its staff were face masks and gloves.
西南航空公司发言人布莱恩·帕里什(Brian Parrish)说,该公司员工最常用的防护装备是口罩和手套。


“Customers traveling with Southwest are welcome to wear personal protective equipment,” Mr. Parrish said. “The only exception to this policy would be any equipment that might interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft or the safety and comfort of other customers.”


Vicky Ding, who traveled with her mother and brother to Beijing from New York by way of Hong Kong on March 18, wore a rain jacket, hairnet, a mask and goggles. Her mother brought plastic shower curtains to place on the seats, but they did not end up using them.
18日,维姬·丁(Vicky Ding,音)与母亲和兄弟从纽约出发,从香港转机前往北京,她穿着雨衣,戴着发网、口罩和护目镜。她的母亲带了塑料浴帘,准备铺在座位上,不过最终没有使用它们。


“The airlines were still serving food, but half the people didn’t eat it,” Ms. Ding said. She drank a protein shake through a straw.


Brian Campbell, who visited his parents’ house in Oklahoma from California in mid-March, said he wore a mask for the entire journey, starting from his ride to the airport, to avoid bringing the virus with him. His taxi driver in Oklahoma commented on the mask and questioned whether it was necessary.
布莱恩·坎贝尔(Brian Campbell)3月中旬从加州来到父母在俄克拉荷马州的家中,他说为了避免身上带了病毒,他从去往机场的路上开始,全程都戴着口罩。在俄克拉荷马州,他搭上一辆出租车,司机对他的口罩发表评论,质疑是否有必要戴它。


“We don’t have a culture of wearing a mask around,” Mr. Campbell said. “Hopefully, now we’ll move more in that direction.”


Mr. Chan, who flew to Hong Kong in March, says he felt the precautions he had taken were justified when the Hong Kong government announced, two days after he landed, that five people who were on his flight had tested positive for the virus.


“It was tough wearing the N95 the whole time, and suffocating,” he said. “I looked really weird and awkward.” But in hindsight, he said, “it was all necessary.”



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