Coronavirus: Business Travel Issues

Coronavirus: Business Travel Issues

Question:

My new start-up business requires that I regularly travel into and through Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco to make presentations to potential large clients. I know I shouldn’t be worried, that the authorities are taking all necessary precautions, but all three cities have airports accepting passengers from China and are home to a lot of Chinese.

I keep thinking about the cruise ship where nearly four thousand people got quarantined for two weeks. All it would take is for one passenger in the plane to show symptoms and they might quarantine the whole plane. I can’t afford two weeks of downtime.

I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about the coronavirus but other than wearing respirators, washing my hands and not traveling, there isn’t much help for travelers.

Answer:

If someone on your plane shows symptoms, you and other passengers may be quarantined. While the probability of this occurring is extremely low, if the thought of plane travel creates high anxiety for you, you may want to explore other methods for connecting with out-of-state prospective clients such as Skype and GoToMeeting.

When you travel, take precautions against getting sick.  If you find yourself sitting next to someone who appears ill, alert the flight crew and ask to be moved. If they can’t because of a full flight, don a N95 face mask and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, and if water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Use alcohol wipes to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as your tray table, seat back pocket and armrest. If you use the lavatory, wipe both door handles with an alcohol wipe before using them.

Although many think it’s easy to catch colds or other contagious diseases on planes, the World Health Organization reports that “there is very little risk of any communicable disease being transmitted on board” because planes use high-efficiency particulate air filters when recirculating cabin air.  Despite this, you might want to turn off the overhead air vent as it attracts droplets, captures them in the airflow and then shoots not-so-clean air at you. Further, as an airplane’s low humidity irritates mucosal membranes in the nose and mouth, leading many passengers to half-unconsciously scratch there, creating tiny tears where viruses can land.  You also reduce the odds you’ll catch something by taking a window seat as more potentially sick individuals pass you when you sit on the aisle.

Finally, as we haven’t yet created a vaccine, the novel coronavirus crisis may continue for some time before things get better. You can keep yourself informed by calling the CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or via the websites https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. You may also want to consult with your physician for more information on how to build up your immune system.

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