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Flight Attendants and Covid-19 (confessionsfromaflightattendant.wordpress.com)
100 points by imartin2k 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments

The days of carefree travel will return. It'll be a while, but it will be back.

In early March, looking for a park to sit quietly with my thoughts in the sunshine but away from others, I found myself in a local cemetery. Alone, but not far from a great many people.

Seattle's a pretty young place on the scale of things. I was surprised to find that our local graveyard had a substantial contingent that had lived through the 1918 flu. After noting, to my surprise, that there wasn't an obvious peak in the deaths in 1918, I sat there and silently asked a number of them what they'd tell us, if they could. I wasn't sure of the answers, but my perspective was changed.

Everything all of us know as "normal" came after a number of devastating pandemics. It'll be back, it'll be slightly different, but it will be the same.

> I sat there and silently asked a number of them what they'd tell us, if they could.

Don't dig up my body and recreate the 1918 virus?


> Because the corpses were buried in the "permafrost" - ground that is frozen even at the height of the Arctic summer - tissue samples from the brain, kidney, lungs and spleen were well preserved.

Viruses can survive in the "permafrost", because they are frozen. Pretty sure no virus can survive for a 100 years buried in ground at normal temperatures!

> Pretty sure no virus can survive for a 100 years buried in ground at normal temperatures!

I want to agree with you, although usually when we say things like that about viruses a few years later we find a class that can.

Can I just say how refreshing it is to see this perspective on HN instead of the "denialist/open-up" faction warring with the "no really this is serious" folks?

Indeed, this will pass. It's bad, we have a lot of work to do before it does. There's more suffering to come. But it's not the end of anything.

Might be the end of you though.

High-risk groups can take extra actions for defense, early detection & early treatment.

If they have that luxury based on class. Otherwise they are hosed.

One of the most effective defenses is Vitamin D, which is free if you go outside on a sunny day. Bonus fresh air. Dark-skinned people may benefit from (cheap) supplements, depending on location.

A disproportionate number of US/UK severe cases are dark-skinned people. Have you seen research into the cause?

Sadly, Vitamin D does not have a pharma marketing budget to convince people that they would be hosed without expensive, emerging, and relatively unproven designer drugs OR addressing Vitamin D deficiency in northern climates.


There does appear to be a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 risk.


This is just fear mongering. Life will return to normal. Lots of people swore they'd never fly after 9/11 and yet things did recover.

Things in air travel did not go back to normal though.

Cockpit doors were reinforced, with nobody allowed in during flights.

Things on the ground were even more changed, with security still heightened to this day (even if much of it is theatre). AFAIK, it was also around then that tickets became non-transferable. People's luggage can no longer travel with out them. We have 3D body scanners and can only carry small quantities of liquids in a tiny bag (I realise this came a bit later, but the point stands). Being brown results in even more unpleasantness.

Things absolutely did not return to normal after 9/11.

Maybe. Two very reassuring things happened right after 9/11, though: (1) cockpit doors were seriously reinforced, and (2) everyone realized that if there was a on-board threat, the only rational response would be "Let's roll". Some might also include TSA changes on that list.

COVID-19 is different. We're having an extended period of time to realize that we simply don't need to fly anywhere. And that airplanes always were flying petri dishes and that that sometimes matters a lot.

I'm older that most here, and it's somewhat difficult to imagine ever getting on a plane again. It's always been sort of marginal, and now it just looks like a loser.

If we actually achieve confirmed herd immunity, perhaps I will feel different.

We're having an extended period of time to realize that we simply don't need to fly anywhere.

I think we're all learning right now that we don't need to do a lot of things, but we still want to.

I can't imagine getting on a plane either, but only this year. I expect I'll be traveling in 2021 or 2022. I wouldn't even be opposed to going on a cruise again in the next few years. If there's not a global pandemic going on, cruise ships really aren't that big of a risk. I've been on 10-15 cruises and have never picked up anything. Norovirus is the typical risk, but you're probably at more risk of catching it on land than on a cruise ship. There's just not the same level of monitoring and reporting of norovirus at places like restaurants.

Airplanes always were flying petri dishes, but so are any place where people gather. It's not just airplanes and cruise ships, it's restaurants and concerts and schools and churches and extended family get-togethers. There's just no evidence that the pandemic will affect those things in the long run.

Once it's safe to do so, we'll be clustering together again, like we always have.

> Once it's safe to do so, we'll be clustering together again, like we always have.

I think we're agreeing. The question is how soon each individual will judge the situation "safe enough". The young (50 and under or so) will soon realize that they were probably never at much risk, and will revert to normal faster.

The not-young will remain quite wary for a very long time, partly because old people are risk-averse to begin with, and partly because they are at higher risk from COVID-19 specifically.

Economic factors will play a large role as well. Most of us are realizing (faster or slower) that we just got whacked financially. Many have lost jobs, had their retirement accounts depleted, or suffered other downsides. And as a society we will be paying for this for decades in terms of higher taxes, lower services and social safety nets.

Teaching passengers to wear masks when sick, wash their hands, etc., is the "let's roll" of COVID-19. A vaccine will be the reinforced cockpit doors of COVID-19. For most people, in 3 years, we'll be right back to where we were.

I don't see how airplanes are any more "petri dishes" than buses, trains, theatres, stadiums, conventions, churches, restaurants, or the DMV. (We're not going to start building everything 4x bigger in every dimension just so people can safely sneeze at an IMAX screening.) Instead of seeing that they don't need to fly, they'll see that flying is no worse than 20 other things they do.

We just have to hope that the government doesn't take advantage of the situation to create a TSA of COVID-19, with mandatory worse-than-useless "health theater".

Every little dribble of terrorism made flying a lot worse. (An infinitesimally small one of the reasons to curse Richard Reid.) Just imagine every way flying will get worse when future diseases flare up, and diseases aren't limited by human resourcefulness as terrorism is.

Cockpit doors were pretty straightforward and appeared almost immediately. There's a pretty good chance we will never have an effective COVID-19 vaccine. No knowledgeable scientist thinks it's a sure thing, nor that it will be widely available anytime soon.

Airplanes are uniquely awful in that people are packed closely together and the air is almost entirely recirculated. Nothing else even comes close.

Personally, I think it will have permanent effects on airport operations.

Some of the steps like social distancing, wearing masks, temperature checks, sanitizers, etc will remain even after the vaccine is found.

I'd be surprised. Social distancing is inconvenient, masks are uncomfortable, etc. Things will go back to normal.

I don't believe social distancing on airlines is going to happen for any length of time - the airline industry is a large one, and they will never stand for it.

And scary side thing to consider.. how many corona-virus vaccines have been developed and deployed to date?

Even after SARS (another corona virus), there were a bunch of candidates and some preliminary successes but none actually made it to market because interest (aka funding) subsided. The same over and over again.

As of Jan 1, there were zero. People predicting "we'll have one in a year!" is based on hope and other models, not corona-oriented vaccines. :(

There are over 100 vaccines in development, several have completed phase 1 trials, and one is actually in production already so it will be available when it completes phase 3.

We didn't need vaccines for SARS or MERS because they were both gone pretty quickly and the number of affected individuals was never high enough to warrant completing the expensive testing required to get approval for a vaccine.

Yes, exactly. I hope a) those vaccines yield useful results b) quickly enough before people lose interest and funding.

They don't lose interest like it's some unstoppable force of nature on a timer. They lose interest if the harm caused by the disease is either low or contained. As long as the world continues to experience significant death, impact on the health care system, and economic damage... there will be interest in a vaccine.

Zero in humans. There are vaccines for specific coronaviruses (coronavirii?) in dogs and pigs.


We can turn to history to get a sense of what they might have told us. Seattle acted quickly and swiftly, and the damage was mitigated. Compare that to Philadelphia, where it wasnt. And ultimately, research into influenza led to confirming the causative agent and developing the first effective influenza vaccines. We learned, we adapted, and we fought back. Don't know how long it will take, but it's good to remember that for the past few dozen millenia, the lack of fear of pandemics was not normal. The normal we are trying to return to is a new normal created by our species unwillingness to let infectious disease have the last word.

> After noting, to my surprise, that there wasn't an obvious peak in the deaths in 1918

Well, you've seen photos of mass graves circa this year, right?

To be clear, regular mass burials on Hart Island is normalcy. The increased rate of mass burials is the notable part.


There will be some sense of normalcy, but not the old normal. For example, even an event like 9/11, which is small in the scale of a pandemic, had deep consequences for travel and related industries. There will be traveling after the current pandemic, but it will be much different from what we're used to.

Humans continuously invent their "normals". There was no "old normal" and there won't be a "new normal". Already, different countries and regions have different cultures, histories, responses and outcomes. If anything, their future societies are diverging as a result of conscious choices and actions by humans exercising creative will.

Most of the time “normal” is whatever arrangement was put into place just outside of living memory. Cars are “normal” now, but they’re actually pretty new.

Occasionally “normal” changes faster than it takes for the whole set of humans to change over, this seems like one of those times.

TSA and security theatre became "normal".

Out of all the buzzwords to come out of COVID, "new normal" is maybe my least favorite. What the hell does it even mean?

Like all great buzzwords, its vague enough to mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

I suspect it may have been inspired by Virginia Satir’s change model, specifically the “new status quo” at its end

I've heard "new normal" in common usage for [at least] most of my adult life (I'm 37). I don't think I've ever been confused about its meaning either. "New normal" implies some prior normal, and represents a substantial and permanent delta between the two.

That what ends up being considered 'normal' is not what used to be (the 'old normal').

It means a word virus has found a new carrier of semantic dilution.

Similar stories from a family member who is a major airline pilot. Light load of trips on their (line) schedule, of those trips several get cancelled and of the trips that don't get cancelled, certain legs of them will be day of such that they will have to deadhead somewhere to pick up another flight or layover in an unexpected city.

It's a mess and I don't think the (domestic) airline industry will look the same a year from now.

> ... the gate agent is not going to be your personal valet because you didn’t have enough god-given common sense to plan your travels accordingly.

You can call ahead and arrange for a sky cap to assist you with luggage, or if you ambulatory help, such as a wheel chair. This is well worth it if walking through an airport will be challenging for you. The sky cap will get you past the lines and through the airport in record time.

Make sure to tip them, as they work for tips.

The mobility assistance services (in this case, American Airlines) are a godsend. My father has a terminal illness (well, we all do, but his is more advanced) -- they made it possible for him to travel everywhere on a complicated itinerary to see family. I traveled with him on much of the journey; their assistance was incredible.

Tip high. They exceeded expectations in every airport.

As a kid I used to do that job. Paid minimum wage plus the occasional tip. The flight attendants and gate staff sometimes offer minimal assistance moving a traveler into a stair chair when the person cannot even get out of their seats, but usually they left even that to us. At least at US airports, those guys work for the airport, not the airline.

From the same industry, a very good take from Mentour Pilot on how the crisis will turn out in terms of the economic future of airlines (with 3 different scenarios): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UJR9JFdMYI

"That woman by the way was traveling by herself with a dog kennel, a baby, a car seat and two carry-on bags, and yet the airport was in the wrong for not having anything or anyone ready to assist her as she deplaned"

I actually think it's reasonable that the woman expects more from the airport. They levy very high margin charges for landing, departure, parking, rent for vendors, and so on. Reasonable service seems expected. Perhaps not a pre-staged cart, but at least nearby phone (or number to text) to ask for one.

I think that it is reasonable to expect the woman to check in the car seat and at least one of the carry-ons as baggage. I also think it is reasonable for the flight attendant and other passengers to expect the airline to enforce their rules on this, although maybe with more leniency now, but do not then expect extra service for breaking common curtesy.

Lots of people have stopped flying infant in arms because it’s far safer for babies to be properly secured. The FAA is rather clear on that.

That means the car seat wouldn’t be checked: it would be strapped down to a seat and the baby strapped in that.

In this case, it’s very possible - even likely, because airlines like selling seats - that baby was a revenue passenger entitled to a carry-on bag of its own.

Ok, thanks for the explanation, in that case my perception is completely changed, and I think it is reasonable to expect help from the flight attendant. In my mind the car seat was just an extra piece stowed and to be used at destination, but I can see that is a dumb assumption.

Entirely this. As someone who has flown with multiple children and/or infants (I apologize to everyone who hates screaming children on planes), most of the time now you buy a separate ticket for your baby and have them in a carseat that is strapped into the plane seat. It's a logistical nightmare.

I've never seen a car seat on a plane. We flew multiple times with ours on our laps.

Sure, you can also not wear seatbelts or bike helmets. It’s a free country.

Actually seat belts are a legal requirement here.

A child seat on a plane is an illusion of safety. If the plane crashes it won't help. The only reason to bring one into the cabin (and it is a good reason) is if you need one where you are going.


> Did you know that the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap? Your arms aren't capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.

> The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS or device for the duration of your flight

It prevents your child from turning into a projectile during heavy turbulence.

In addition to other comments about the car seat actually being used on the flight:

Checking (at bag drop) a car seat risks invisibly compromising the protection it affords. Gate checking is likely better.

> The days of carefree travel are long gone.

I've been digging up videos of people from the early 1920s and I see very little impact of the Spanish Flu on people's mannerisms even just within a year or two after (like no masks in the streets even though mask wearing was apparently a big thing during the pandemic). Just the other day, I was reading up on Charlie Chaplin. Looking at his filmography, I noticed a a gap of just 1 year (between "A Day's Pleasure" released Dec 1919 and "The Kid" released Feb 2021) which is when the pandemic would've been raging across the land. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Chaplin_filmography)

So, while I certainly watch in horror at what is happening with COVID-19 and how the whole world has come to a standstill, if history is to be believed, we'll bounce back faster than we suspect. Not tomorrow, maybe not even within the next six months, but very likely within a year I think we'll be back in full force.

I hope that travel will be a norm again, but what have changed since 1920s - nowadays practically zero risk during air travel is a baseline expectation. It looks like the last couple of generations are much more risk averse than any previous generation.

> Within a year after a vaccine becomes available,

We have never successfully developed a vaccine for a coronavirus before. And even if it's proven to be feasible, it will be unlikely to be very practical (are we going to manufacture billions of doses? How long will it take? Won't there be some kind of herd immunity by then?) and there are also indicators that such vaccines would not be effective beyond 6 months or so.

The more I hear about a vaccine for this coronavirus, the less it seems like the true solution for this crisis.

Where did you get the 6 month figure from? It's true we really don't know how things will pan out long term, but we know that there are lot's of possibilities that all work out to something that's not awful in the long term.

For example, we already produce and distribute an annual vaccine on the scale of billions (the flu). The flu also has tampering effectiveness on a pretty short time scale. The flu vaccine is also not 100% effective. And despite all of those short comings, we're able to mitigate flu into something that people literally use as the low bar for infectious diseases in terms of spread and severity.

I think you're right that the vaccine is unlikely to let us eradicate coronavirus, but it'll let us get back to a new normal - one that isn't fundamentally different from our old normal (at least from a health perspective - who knows what happens at a societal or policy level).

The flu vaccine efficiency is rather low, between 19% and 60% depending on the year, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/effectiveness-studies....

But what is interesting is that the current lockdown in Norway killed the flu with season ending abruptly.

That's not surprising! The lockdown is a general-purpose counter to droplet/airborne-communicable diseases, it's not done for seasonal flu because the cost is seen as disproportionate to the known benefit. Stopping other communicable diseases is an expected side effect of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Those percentages don't tell the whole story. Even when the vaccine doesn't match the circulating strains closely enough to prevent infection, it typically mitigates symptom severity at least a little. For some patients that can be the difference between life and death.

Vaccines are unlikely to work or be scalable, though that won't stop companies from trying. More practically, repurposing widely available low-cost therapeutics, combined with early treatment, have proven effective in many cases. When not detected and treated early, expensive drugs may be necessary for treatment.

> Vaccines are unlikely to work or be scalable

Can you back that up with some kind of science? There are >100 in development and several are done with phase 1. Hell, one is already entering production in anticipation of final approval later this year.

Short term, we'll probably rely heavily on plasma.

Zero vaccines in the entire history of coronaviruses. For the well-known reason that the viruses mutate, so a vaccine against seasonal variant A does not work against new variant B.

This is a common misconception. Viruses mutate, sure, but most do not mutate very quickly or very much. This includes coronaviruses. Influenza, on the other hand, mutates at a prodigious rate in meaningful ways.

The reason we don't have vaccines against any coronaviruses is because there aren't very many that infect humans and all of them other than SC2 are so mild it isn't worth spending the effort to eradicate them.

> The reason we don't have vaccines against any coronaviruses

Coronaviruses affect animals too, and yet we haven't been able to develop vaccines against them. And yes, there are vaccines for many other infections for animals.

There are several simultaneous misperceptions I see:

First, noted in the article, is a false sense of security. If the Secret Service in the White House can have an outbreak, any workplace can have an outbreak. The pandemic has yet to hit large swathes of the planet, but it will probably do so before a vaccine is available. This is really, really bad, and will be until there is some substantial change.

Third is a sense of false optimism: There is one antiviral that has been tested to have a significant but relatively modest effect on recovery time, and that may reduce risk of death by an as yet unknown amount. Other than that, no confirmed breakthroughs in treatment. Nothing that sharply reduces risk of death or duration and severity of illness. In other words, the risks are almost the same as on day one. Why does anyone thing a lockdown can be lifted with a price in terms of many tens of thousands of lives just in the US?

Lastly, there is a sense that we will be in a permanent pandemic. As the above comment points out, the direct impact will be felt for one or two years. There will be permanent changes, perhaps as a result of the realization that access to health care is key to minimizing pandemics. Perhaps infectious disease surveillance will rise in importance. But the economy will resume. Un-parking airplanes will happen. Humans want to travel. Businesses may realize that business travel can be cut down. Schools may realize distance learning can work. But I see no reason why discretionary travel would not resume and grow. I see no reason why in-person social mingling would not resume, maybe with a bang, as people celebrate being vaccinated.

If business travel is reduced, you can expect the cost of regular coach class tickets to increase massively as the former pays for the flight and the latter is just there to wring a bit more profit out of the trip.

Business travel right now is non-existent and many companies are finding that things still work just fine without it and will not return to previous spend levels.

Tickets to leisure destinations are not out of line from flights on business routes, so I don’t think it’s right to say airplanes can’t fly profitably without business travelers footing the bill.

Ryanair did fine without a business class

distance learning is absolutely not working. parents need to work and can't let their kids stay home alone. nor can they get work done if they want to work from home with kids around.

yes, this is solveable, but it will take time. the pandemic needs to rage for several more years before a change in behavior can be normalized

> The days of carefree travel are long gone.

I feel like that exited back in 2011.

What happened in 2011?

Pretty sure they meant 2001, as in 9/11.

> No one could have ever predicted


"No one could have ever predicted that this very common thing that's happened all throughout human history would happen again"

I think I watched a movie about this one time...


What price did the world exact from the because of the 1918 or Mexico for the swine flu pandemics? Ok, so we only discovered for sure that the 1918 flu came from the US recently, but swine flu we knew right away.

Also, China has paid an enormous price for this. Do you think that Chinese administrators are looking at what happened and saying, "golly, we got off lightly here, no need to make any changes".

Also: claiming that someone has to pay a price for doing something without having in mind a realistic mechanism for making them pay is not reactionary, just dumb.

While the most likely source of the 1918 flu was a pig in the US, that is by no means definitively proven. Other possibilities remain. We'll probably never know for sure.

I don't believe that Mexico or the USA actively tried to suppress news of those epidemics. Am i wrong?

> To maintain morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Newspapers were free to report the epidemic's effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit. This gave rise to the name "Spanish" flu.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu

So yeah, I would say the US definitely suppressed news of the 1918 flu.


And if China gets a secondary wave of infection from negligence in the USA? Then what? The Treasury is going is going to cut China a cheque?


The president of the United States has claimed the virus was a hoax, that people might cure themselves by injecting disinfectant, and I've forgotten what else. How does that fit in?

In which court do you expect these kind of claims to be litigated, and how will its judgements be enforced?

It will happen again, we knew something like this will happen, isolating China is maybe a solution for some politicians to get some points. Ideally we learn this time and everyone will be prepared with masks, we somehow fix the anti-vacine movement, implement contact tracing etc.

Sure in parallel we should see if and who is guilty of what , but this should be a side thing and not the main focus.

If the past 100 years are anything to go by, on average, it ought to happen about once every 25 years; 1918, 1957, 1968, 2020. More often than that if you start thinking about how close to being one of those SARS and MERS were.

I think there were a few interesting factors this time around:

1. Better communication: In the previous cases, there was no internet. Communication even between doctors would have happened via governments, international media, or international conferences.

2. Increased travel: The globalisation of the virus was certainly a bit faster than it otherwise would have been due to the greater level of international travel that (until covid) had been the status quo.

3. Politics: It seems as though health issues, whether to wear masks, whether the virus is "real", how businesses should respond, and so on have become divided along political lines. I'm not sure whether this happened in 1918, 1957 and 1968, but I am guessing it didn't happen to the same degree.

Will we be better prepared next time? Ideally yes, but I'm not sure that it's a certainty.

> It will happen again

Of course it will. For several reasons, not the least of which is that China turned back on the wildlife wet markets already. Just like they did after SARS. We should encourage them to modernize their food supply so this is not necessary.

About the food supply, I would focus on modernizing every country not only China, don't lose the focus of the problem by focusing in the US current preferred target. I can tell you that we still have epidemics that affect pigs here in Romania and markets get to be closed, and infected and uninfected pigs from people households get kiolled in panic(happened this year in my region).

I agree, but we also need to look closer to home with our factory farming approach to animal husbandry where conditions are far from ideal. Not saying that everyone should go vegan, but we can't rely on a continuously supply cheaply produced meat ($1 burger).

I can't disagree with that. I'm not a vegan but I want animals to have as decent a life as possible.

We're all paying a price for this. It is on each of us to limit the damage today and prevent a similar event in the future.

China castigated the rest of the world for suggesting restrictions on travel from there, yet now are blaming foreigners for new cases there, as well as imposing the sort of restrictions that they felt were unacceptable when applied to them

I wonder what other bullshit things governments have caused due to their neglect which could be punished, in that imaginary world of yours...

The Chinese government has the incentive to not let something like this happening again because they still need the queit cooperation of their population, a slow-burning dissent would still lead to their downfall...

What is imaginary about the Chinese authorities suppressing news about this virus? We already know that the (late) doctor who first exposed it was forced to sign a retraction.


Chance of death is one thing, but your chance of ending up with a prolonged extremely unpleasant hospital stay and possible long term (we don't know yet, but I don't want to be the one to find out) morbidities is far higher. Under 50 year olds make up 20-25% of hospitalizations.


50% of ICU patients have clotting problems, including strokes, but mostly damage to lower limbs.

30% of ICU patients experience kidney problems and require a consultation with a nephrologist or dialysis.

It's not as simple as "all good" vs "death".

PS: source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-hijacks-the-body-fr...

These numbers don’t account for the age distribution. It’s not reasonable to say “25% of those going to ICUs are under 50” (chances are this is probably 23% 40-45; btw), and “50% of those in ICU have clotting problems”, so “25% x 50% = 12.5%”.

True. Note that I did not perform those multiplications because I agree that the interpretation of the results is highly speculative in nature, and can lead to possibly very incorrect conclusions. The point is like I stated: the end result is not a simple resolution between complete success or death.

That's a somewhat narrow view of the disease. There's an awful lot we don't know about the long term impacts of the disease, about what else it is doing to the body along the way. So far we only know about the immediate effects.

To be clear: I'm not panicking or living in fear, just keeping firmly in mind that there's likely more we don't know than do know about it.

Given how infectious it is and how we can’t keep the economy closed for 18 months until we have a vaccine (we work in tech, we might be a bit distant but a quarter of my friends are unemployed right now), and how these job losses disproportionately affect the poor, the young, and minorities; reality is outside of maybe New Zealand; we are all going to herd immunity.

Or maybe not. Georgia reopened 3 weeks ago. Any jumps in cases? No.

==But thinking YOU are at risk is a myth.==

This is a blatant falsehood. You have no idea what conditions other people carry.

It’s 10-20x deadlier than the flu for all age groups, including young people. It’s just many many times worse for elderly people.

> Hotel check-ins now consist of wiping down all the surfaces and light switches in the room with antibacterial wipes.

I assume they mean something else. We are dealing with a virus. Alcohol and bleach wipes ftw.

If you could find a working flight attendant who is still susceptible to COVID-19, I’d be astounded. Crazy times.

Why was I expecting something...interesting and unique from this sub/story...underwhelming :/

I think flight attendants is probably a job that should be for people that have had CV and have recovered already. I can't imagine anyone doing that job without becoming infected.

At least for now, it's believable they could work safely. There's very few people on the aircraft, and snacks/beverages are mostly stopped. Also, contrary to popular belief, the air in the aircraft is refreshed fairly often from the outside (via the engines).

I often get sick during travel. It's really annoying. But the last two trips I got sick and I'm pretty sure it happened at the airport. So there is a positive from this in terms of travel.

Since hospitals are practically empty right now, have we thought of allowing people to voluntarily get infected/quarantined (using a tiny viral load)? Obviously no old, immuno-compromised, or other vulnerable people. But for healthy "essential" workers it would mean not living in fear that they might get it... because they already got over it.

I am assuming people would want to see benefits in being infected before they're going to volunteer. We don't have conclusive data that you can only get COVID-19 once. We don't have conclusive evidence that viral load / exposure volume is what controls the severity of the disease. Right now, it simply looks too risky to attempt; people will volunteer to die painfully, and the ones that survive might not even be spared a second infection. We just don't know right now.

More data is necessary. It seems likely to me that exposure to the disease will confer immunity for some period of time, because so many other diseases work that way. But we just don't have solid data that shows that to be the case. (We also don't have data that says the opposite is true.)

I kind of have a gut feeling that the total number of people infected is much higher than we think it is, and thus there is less risk. We can watch the states that have reopened to see if that's true (and ship everyone an antibody test with their Census forms or something). More data is being acquired, and with that data, we should be able to make better guesses as to what the next course of action should be.

(Reacting to this article specifically, I'd love for the author to get an antibody test. It seems so unlikely to me for people in these very high risk environments to have managed to not get the disease. People travel sick. People wear masks wrong. The disease is incredibly contagious. How could you not get sick? It is all kind of amazing to me.)

> I am assuming people would want to see benefits in being infected before they're going to volunteer.

Counterpoint: I would volunteer for this today if it was an option.

Perhaps you would. But with our present state of knowledge, it might be medical malpractice for a hospital to help you to do so.

I'm curious about your reasoning for that

As is, the prime of my life is effectively being wasted; none of my regular pursuits are possible and I can't visit any of my family or friends. For healthy people in my age group there's roughly a 0.1% IFR and with about six decades of life remaining, that works out to about a three week expected loss of my lifespan if I'm infected. If I were able to visit my parents I could do most of their regular shopping/errands for them, decreasing their risk profile.

I feel that I'm well informed on the potential risks to myself.

Put in reverse - what duration and severity of restrictions to your life would you be willing to endure in exchange for a three-week boost to your life expectancy?

I'd even sign up for periodic attempts at re-infection to ensure that I'm (still) immune.

A 0.1% chance of death is not the only consequence of infection. As someone in a similar position to you, I'm far more concerned about permanent lung damage or other long term health impacts than death.

Yes, I'm familiar with those risks, and would be willing to accept them.

The stay at home order here makes exceptions for "family or household members", so people here can go do errands for parents without being in violation of it (it's also not particularly being enforced).

The thing is, it's not just a personal decision, increased social contact results in increased spread for everybody, not just a 3 week risk for a given individual.

Of course, lots of people are starting from the premise that 100% infection is inevitable, and then apparently tacking on it not being worth slowing things down while interventions and vaccines are researched, in which case it doesn't make any sense to worry about other people (because they think it's a foregone conclusion).

Yeah, my parents don't live nearby, I can't visit them without having a plan for a 14-day quarantine on arrival, and then after that, me living with them is more of a risk to them if I haven't been infected beforehand.

I'm not really sure how your other points relate to mine? The point of voluntary infection is that my social contacts then wouldn't be a risk to others.

> But for healthy "essential" workers it would mean not living in fear that they might get it... because they already got over it.

Coronaviruses don't tend to produce strong, long-lasting immunity, and we have no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 does, and, also, young otherwise healthy people are dying from strokes that seem to be due to the virus: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/24/strokes-cor...

So, this would be both high-risk and of dubious utility even in the case where significant adverse effects didn't occur.

> Coronaviruses don't tend to produce strong, long-lasting immunity

This is a bit misleading. The common coronaviruses that cause the "common cold" do not seem to confer long lasting immunity. But there are very significant differences between those viruses and SC2. The best estimate we have is that immunity will be similar to SC1 (SARS) and immunity to that lasts several years.

> Coronaviruses don't tend to produce strong, long-lasting immunity

Sure they do. But the immunity lasts a few years instead of a lifetime.

Young people with thrombosi are very rare, so not high risk from that standpoint. As an individual that might be assessed high risk, but in aggregate it is not.

It's still risky for healthy young individuals, while most barely present symptoms some people have a very real risk of dying.

"Voluntarily allowing people to get infected" creates a perverse incentive for poor essential workers to put their lives on the line in order to put food on the table.

What's the perverse incentive? I don't think the proposal is that essential workers should have to get infected before they work.

It's not an incentive if it's mandatory. It's an incentive if there's some perceived benefit to do it. It's perverse if that perceived benefit is avoiding unnecessary consequences of economic distress.

If voluntary infection is allowed, employers may favor employees who test positive for antibodies—for example, by offering a pay increase, or some additional amount of paid sick leave prior to recovery—because they would be less likely to fall ill en masse at some unpredictable later date. States with continued (or resumed in a second wave) shutdown restrictions may exempt businesses whose employees are deemed immune.

The people most likely to be incentivized to take this risk are the people who are most economically vulnerable already. I would never consider that risk, but I'm a well paid software engineer working from home.

It's not so much a “perverse incentive” for essential workers as a direct attack, as every essential worker who would choose this route to get infected increases the risk profile for everyone they work with (not all of whom are young and otherwise healthy.) But it stops being a problem there if, as most proposals for reopening suggest, general shelter in place is replaced with targeted quarantines of the infected and exposed (and especially if, for this specific option, any resulting lack of employment from choosing voluntary infection by this route is treated as voluntary separation from work and thus not subject to public benefits.)

The perverse incentive would be for non-essential workers, but only if this is coupled with one of the existing proposals for “certificates of immunity” (which there is little scientific basis for, but that's another issue) being a factor in allowing them to return to non-remote work.

I doubt the legal department of the hospital would allow such a thing

Robin Hanson has been advocating for this. http://www.overcomingbias.com/2020/03/variolation-may-cut-co...

> But for healthy "essential" workers it would mean not living in fear that they might get it... because they already got over it.

That does seem to be the prevailing public understanding, but it's not actually yet known to be the case.

Of course it's possible, but it would be gambling not just on successful recovery (as it always would) but also that it would end up being effective anyway.

Genuine question: why are hospitals empty? Aren't people affected by covid taken there?

Hospitals in my area have laid off and/or furloughed nurses. Also in my state, less than 500 people have tested positive (lack of testing for sure) and less than 20 people have died. There are not enough sick people from COVID or anything else to fill our hospitals. However, people are unable to do normal treatments and elective procedures due to lockdowns or are unwilling to go due to fear of COVID. Thus no money coming in to the hospitals thus layoffs and furloughs.

The vast majority of places in the US have almost no covid cases. Many emergency hospitals and rent hospitals have been taken down or decommissioned, and in some cases nurses and hospital staff are even being furloughed because demand for elective and non-emergency care have dropped off a cliff.

Severe covid cases are, but in most areas that's not enough to fill the hospitals.

They aren't empty.

They are less crowded than usual because elective procedures have been cancelled in many cases, but people are still there for non-elective procedures, emergencies, births, etc. And yes, covid cases requiring a hospital are lower than predicted... but they do exist.

I always thought cruise ships would be great for this.

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