The headlines have been reassuring: "Grandparents are getting to hug their grandkids for the first time after getting vaccinated."
Well, that's fine for grandparents who live near their grandkids or within driving distance. Those of us who have to fly--well, that's another story. In the best of all possible worlds, we should hold off on airplane travel unless it's absolutely necessary. Does a hug qualify? Our public health gurus tell us, Don't do it unless you must, even if you're fully vaccinated. Maybe by summer when even more people are vaccinated (and a fourth wave either doesn't rise or is under control) it might be safer to go.
We're making plans to see both our grown kids and their kids later this spring and again this summer. We'll fly, as we did last fall. This article spells out what we can expect if we take to the air. Here's what I learned from it and from others:
It will be more crowded and busier than it was in September 2020 when we took our "see the kids" trip. Planes will be fuller. Delta is still blocking middle seats but that's only through April and may change for May and beyond. Other airlines are filling all seats on their flights. So we may be sitting cheek-and-jowl again. Here we go, back to normal but in way that we wish would be back better. word.
Airlines required (but didn't enforce) masks when we flew in the fall. The current Transportation Security Administration has mandated masks at airports and on airplanes through May 11; airlines have become stricter about enforcing their own mask-up rules. A T.S.A. spokesperson said it was too soon to say what will happen after the May date but given airline mask requirements, the rise of a fourth wave and the variants that are around, face coverings are likely to be required for the seeable future. Given concerns about that fourth surge and President Biden's plea to wear masks, we''ll probably double mask while traveling. Just to be sure.
At the height of the pandemic, most airlines stopped food and drink service. They may start again--at least with beverages and snacks. What happens to our masks when and if the airlines roll those drink carts down the aisles? Can't eat or sip a soda with a mask on, so what do we do if we're thirsty or hungry? We may have to mask between bites.
Most food concessions remain closed at many airports--though that may loosen up as vaccination totals climb. When we flew in September, there were one or two concessions available to buy food. We ate our lunch while we waited to board the plane. The airport was eerily empty so we had plenty of space to ourselves. If more passengers show up at airports, concessions may begin to reopen and socially distanced space may be harder to find.
When we get to our destination there's the question of whether, even though we're vaccinated, we can carry and spread the virus to our loved ones. The research so far is unclear, though it leans toward non-spread. Some of us may luck out in that our grown children may be vaccinated by the time we travel--and therefore immune from anything we pick up during our travels. Our New York State kids already have appointments for jabs. If we put off our trip till their second shots take root, we can visit with them in their home with fewer precautions--and more hugs.
painting: Renoir, Oarsmen at Chatou