By Anna Hanuska
Ever wondered what it’s like to travel during a pandemic? Well, now you don’t have to. I flew to Baltimore, Maryland for healthcare, and it was quite the experience.
A little background: as someone born with a rare limb defect, I require specialized doctors to treat my condition. I visit for yearly checkups to ensure my joints remain stable, among other reasons. These visits truly are essential, as I’ve even needed last-minute surgery once. However, my doctor practices in Baltimore, so I’ve done short trips there all my life, often having less than 24 hours between arrival and return flights. This year’s checkup was in June.
The scariest part of the trip was the airport. I walk into a normally bustling hub of tourists only to be met with an eerily vacant hallway, only a few travelers daring to make a journey. The security line is practically nonexistent, but there is tape marking every 6 feet on the floor just in case. Hand sanitizing stations are set up so frequently along the concourse that I can see 3 at any given time. Most restaurants are shuttered, only those with pure takeaway or very distanced seating remain. Everyone wears masks diligently, as the fear of foreign viruses increases in a travel setting and reminds them of their duty to protect themselves and others. The airline keeps the middle seats open, helping to alleviate some of the regular cramped conditions.
“Not to worry,” announces the crew over the loudspeaker, “our plane is equipped with air filters that cycle in outside air. In fact, the air is entirely replaced every 7 minutes!” Their reassurance does little to quell my anxiety. I refuse to eat the entire flight (as well as most of the time in the airport), as that would require removing my mask, so by the end of the flight I am absolutely starving and extremely dehydrated.
The next day I walk to the hospital, mask on, and pause at the sliding glass door. Alongside the usual “wash your hands” signs present at normal businesses, there are large red posters dictating the extremely limited visiting hours for hospital patients. Once inside, a receptionist ensures I have an appointment, takes my temperature, and hands me a second mask to wear over my usual one. I head to the elevator, which is limited to two occupants, and enter the waiting room for the orthopedic department. The usual welcoming atmosphere is stifled by the distancing guidelines as families try to stay six feet apart, with teens maneuvering their wheelchairs out of the way and parents trying to get their excited toddlers to stay still. I spent about 5 hours in the hospital for about 20 minutes of appointment, and as I watched another place so influential in my life become foreign, the threat of the pandemic set in.
I felt that both the airport and the hospital implemented adequate distancing procedures, and it was nice to be in a less busy airport. However, it really made the threat of the virus feel more real, and stressed me out a lot. Traveling is definitely still not safe, and I would not recommend it.