Many of my friends who have grandkids living nearby have loosened the visitation rules: The Grands and Grownkids can come to their backyards--outdoor visits only!--but no hugging. They can have a meal together--at separate tables with separate food, preferably cooked in separate kitchens. There may even be a BYO plates rule.
What about little ole us whose kids and grandkids live too far away for a casual backyard visit? One friend was invited by her son and family to visit for a long weekend at a small, rented house on Cape Cod. Sounded delightful--despite the 6 hour drive. But. But. But. The daughter-in-law had gone back to work as a physician assistant at a clinic whose patients were under court orders to attend drug rehab programs. My friend's antenna went on alert. She wasn't sure what safety measures were in place for personnel at the clinic. She decided a small house and loved one who was working at an essential but possibly Covid-exposed job were not the best mix for her.
If it seems like it's safe to go on a visit, the grandparents I know or have read about have gotten in their cars and driven straight through to wherever their grandkids are--be it a 3-hour drive or one that's 10+. The stays have been brief--only a day or two when the drives are on the shorter side. They've kept their masked distance--not wanting to pick up any virus from their grownkids or grands and taking pains to ensure that they don't bring something untoward into their child's house.
We are hoping to see our children and grandchildren this summer. They live 400 and 450 miles away from us but 150 miles from each other. Long-distance driving is not a viable option for us--even though it is supposedly safer than flying. So our thinking is that we would fly to one child's home city, rent a car, visit and then drive to the other child before flying home. Sum total: 2 airplane trips, one 3-hour drive, 2 pet bunnies, 4 grandkids and 4 adults seen and hugged. Yes hugged. There are ways to do it safely. We can do it! But. But. But. How safe is air travel? Would we be endangering ourselves or our children and grandchildren by moving through an airport and sitting on an airplane with other passengers.
We've gone as far as to check out safety tips. One thing I learned is that I don't have to worry about the air in the planes. When the ventilation system on planes is operating, planes have a very high ratio of outside fresh air to recirculated air — about 10 times higher than most commercial buildings. Plus, most planes' ventilation systems have HEPA filters. These are more efficient at removing both smaller and larger particles.
In addition to the usual--and important--advice to wash hands, wash hands, wash hands, here are seven other safety tips if, like us, fly you must.
Social distance seating. Best bets are airlines that are minimizing capacity and spacing passengers by not using middle seats and having empty rows. Call airlines to check on their policy.
Short flights are safer. That is, they minimize risk by making it easier to avoid using the lavatory and cutting down on exposure time to an infectious person if there's one on board. (That would mean cross country trips taken in two or three separate legs, which sounds like additional exposure to me, plus using the lavatory in the airport. But that's what some experts recommend.)
Choose a window seat. Since there's a wall on one side it helps reduce the number of people one is exposed to during the flight--not to mention all the people going up and down the aisle.
Question the airline. Does it have engineering controls to isolate hazards. These include ventilation systems, on-board barriers, and electrostatic disinfectant sprays on flights.
Bring your own. Travel with hand wipes to disinfect every surface you touch--including the seat belt buckle--plus carry along plastic zip bags for personal items that others may handle, such as a license or passport.
Stay put: Once settled into that window seat, stay there until the plane lands.
Wear a mask. We owe it to each other. But don't trust what the airlines say about requiring masks. Recent newspaper reports indicate that the airlines may request masks and even say they insist on them for crew and passengers alike. But they don't enforce the use of them.