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Royal Carribean Cruise Ship

Over 100,000 Volunteers Signed Up For Royal Caribbean’s ‘Test Cruises’ 

More than 100,000 people have signed up to be a part of Royal Caribbean’s test sailings. The Cruising company put out a call for volunteers to take part in these sailings just a few days ago before they received a flood of interested cruisers willing to go on the trips. 

The cruise line will be running a slew of simulated trial sailings as a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) requirements for cruise ships to begin “phased resumption”of sailing before they can actually begin business as usual again. Eager cruisers were asked to fill out a form online to show their interest in taking part in these sailings, and were prompted to join the “Volunteers of the Seas”  Facebook group. 

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Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO wrote a Facebook statement recently after they received such a high volume of volunteers willing to take part in these trials. 

“And just like that…100,000 people have volunteered. We can’t wait to start this next phase with you all!” 

The simulated sailings will look exactly like any other cruise and will even allow for some private island on-shore activity, however, passengers will need to be prepared for Covid-19 quarantine drills as well as standard muster drills as well. All volunteers must be at least 18-years-old and need to show a medical certificate prior to boarding. 

When ocean cruising does make its return to the US, like all modes of travel, it will come with a long list of protocols and procedures put in place for all passenger and staff safety. This will include all parties being tested before embarking on the journey. 

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It’s still unclear as to when Royal Caribbean will be embarking on these test journeys, however, the Cruise Lines International Association – which represents major cruise lines including Royal Caribbean – recently stated that it would be extending its suspension of all cruise operations in the US through December 31st. Some lines have even volunteered to extend that suspension into 2021 as well. 

SeaDream Yacht Club is a cruise line in the US that did attempt to resume normal sailings to the Caribbean in the beginning of this month, however, the trip was cut short due to an outbreak of Covid-19 occurred in the middle of the cruise. The ship was forced to turn around to Barbados with seven guests and two crewmembers quarantining while those who tested negative were able to fly home. The company has cancelled all cruises for the rest of the year. 

“Multiple negative PCR tests were required before the guests boarded, but this was not sufficient to prevent Covid-19 onboard. SeaDream successfully operated more than 20 sailings during the pandemic without any cases and… further improvements were made to protocols before the Barbados season. The company will now spend time to evaluate and see if it is possible to operate and have a high degree of certainty of not getting Covid,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Regardless of when the Royal Caribbean embarks on these simulated cruises, it’s imperative that we all continue to just stay home and follow all health and safety procedures put in front of us as we continue to fight this pandemic.

Close up of Vaccine

What Needs To Happen Before A Covid-19 Vaccine Is Made Available To The Public

Pfizer stated this Wednesday that it expects to submit an application for emergency use authorization with the US Food and Drug Administration “within days” after it finalized its Phase 3 clinical trial data.

USA Covid-19 Virus

Health Experts Claim Covid-19 In The US Is A ‘Humanitarian Disaster’ 

“This is a humanitarian disaster — probably one of the worst stories I’ve covered in my career,” said CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said Thursday. Gupta’s comments are intense, yet unsurprising and universally accepted among health experts and scientists all throughout the country who have watched as over 10 million Americans suffered from this virus; over 280,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus. 

Workers from Doctors Without Borders have been called upon to help the US get the pandemic under control. “I mean, this is an organization that typically covers true disasters and medical crises all over the world, and when they sort of look at a map right now and say, ‘Where do we need to be?’ they pointed to the United States. They were in nursing homes in Detroit. They went to Missouri. They’re in these different places trying to offer their services. And still, the numbers are what they are,” Gupta explained

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On Wednesday the US reported 1,893 Covid-19-related deaths according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Within the next two months it’s projected that 110,000 more Americans will die from the virus based on the current rate in which it’s spreading/impacting certain communities throughout the nation. 

The US has also topped 100,000 new daily infections for at least nine days in a row now. The current White House coronavirus task force warned of “accelerating community spread across the top half of the country,” in state reports distributed this week. The task force went on to state that the lack of response to these constant increases has led to the “most diffuse spread experienced to date,” comments which obviously caused them to receive a lot of backlash, considering they’re the ones who should be working on minimizing this spread, not just pointing out when it’s getting to a “humanitarian disaster” level. 

Third-party researchers are projecting conditions to really worsen in the West Coast, Northeast, and mid-Atlantic states over the next couple of months, as these have been the areas that have seen some of the biggest outbreaks within the past nine months. According to data from Hopkins in every single Midwestern state currently, Covid-19 patients are occupying more than 25% of all ICU beds, and some healthcare workers are worried for what’s going to happen when that percentage nears max capacity. Experts are especially worried that with the impending holiday season many individuals will ignore the global health crisis and continue their holiday part plans as usual. 

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“This pandemic has taken such an emotional toll, on children and seniors alike, that we suspect many families will likely take the risk of gathering.”

The holiday’s also mean college students will be returning home indefinitely until they receive updated news on what their spring semesters will look like under the new Biden administration and whatever shifts in policies he implements to further protect Americans. The thought of young students who could have been carelessly gathering in small dorm rooms coming home to their more vulnerable, older family members has many worried. 

College campuses in all 50 states have reported Covid-19 outbreaks since the fall semester began. If you have a young adult planning to make the trip home in the coming weeks, make sure you’re all taking the proper precautions and getting tested and quarantining if needed. We’re likely all about to be spending even more time with one another as the weeks progress, the pandemic worsens, and we get a new administration in the White House that’s already planning a multitude of new health and safety measures to keep us safe.

Woman Wearing Protective Face Mask

CDC Sets New General Guidelines For Covid-19 Protection 

The US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for navigating the Covid-19 pandemic as a means of updating and further emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask. The CDC made it clear in their guidelines that wearing a face mask doesn’t just protect you from the coronavirus, but everyone around you as well. 

“Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation.”

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Out of all of the policies that America has enacted right now as a means of curbing the spread of the Covid-19 virus, facial coverings and mask wearing is the number one way to prevent the spread of this disease when in a public setting. There have been multiple case studies that suggest the US can get their coronavirus numbers way down in a matter of weeks if every person wore a mask at all times when in public and only left their house for essential errands. 

“The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer,” the CDC continued in their statement, explaining that “the relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.”

Basically, the combination of you personally choosing to wear a mask every day when out in public and the general understanding that everyone else will do the same, will lead to a major decrease in new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. It isn’t even an argument, as we’ve seen from a slew of other countries who had strict mask mandates that it truly does work in getting the numbers down. 

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“Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns,” the CDC continued; for reference 150 microns is roughly the width of a single strand of human hair. 

The agency continued to discuss how masks have various degrees of effectiveness based on the type of mask it is. “Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering nearly 50% of fine particles less than 1 micron,” they said. 

The CDC went on to discuss how if you’re looking to order masks online, see if you can find ones made up of materials like polypropylene, which works as a binding tool for cloth particles that will further improve the effectiveness of how well your mask filters out air. Silk masks are a prime example of this, as the material works to “repel moist droplets and reduce fabric wetting to maintain breathability and comfort.”

Cloth masks in general are extremely protective in terms of blocking large droplets and the exhalation of finer droplets. Most cloth masks can block up  to 70% of all fine droplets, and according to the CDC in some studies they’ve performed on par with surgical masks.

Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine

What You Need To Know About Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine

Pfizer and partner BioNTech made headlines this week after announcing that their Covid-19 vaccine was testing to be 90% effective; more than any other vaccine currently in a late-stage trial throughout the world. The news is still preliminary and a lot of questions are still unanswered, however, there is a decent amount of information that Pfizer and BioNTech has released in regards to their vaccine that could help ease some of those curiosities. 

In July, Pfizer and BioNTech began their late-stage clinical trial on their Covid vaccine. Like many of the trials currently occurring around the world, half the participants were given the vaccine, and the other half were given a saltwater placebo injection. Of the 44,000 individuals involved in the study only 94 have gotten sick with the coronavirus. When the board reviewed how many individuals got the vaccine versus the placebo, the results showed that the vaccine was over 90% effective. 

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that a Covid-19 vaccine will only need to be 50% effective to be approved for emergency authorization. To make sense of the percentages, for reference, the flu vaccine fluctuates between 40% to 60% in efficiency every year. This means that it only fully protects between 40% – 60% of people who get the vaccine, however, it will likely minimize the intensity of the virus in everyone who receives it. These percentages fluctuate based on how bad the season is and how much the virus itself strengthens as time progresses. 

Pfizer and BioNTech haven’t reported any serious safety concerns as a result of their vaccine either, which is why the companies are so enthusiastic about the success of it. The chief executive of Pfizer said it could have 30-40 million doses of the vaccine before the end of 2020; that would be enough for 15-20 million people to get their initial shot and booster three weeks later.

Who will receive the initial doses is unclear, however, it’s been generally understood throughout the world that healthcare providers and other workers who are in more vulnerable positions will receive the initial rounds of the vaccine. The two companies predict they would be able to produce and distribute up to 1.3 billion doses a year, and while that may not be enough for the world’s entire population, other vaccines will likely appear during that time as well.

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Pfizer is applying for emergency authorization in the third week of November, after it submits at least two months of safety data to the FDA. Depending on how that authorization goes, higher risk populations could get vaccinated by the end of the year. 

One of the biggest open questions in regard to this vaccine is how it will impact individuals of different ages. The trial itself had participants that aged from 18 to over 65, however, as time went on they began including kids between the ages of 12 and 18 to make sure there weren’t any irregularities. So far, the companies have reported that the vaccine will likely protect everyone the same. 

In July, Pfizer received a $1.95 billion deal from the US government under Operation Warp Speed, the effort to rush a vaccine to the market, that entailed providing 100 million doses of the vaccine to US residents. While there has been some lack of clarity as to how well this deal has been able to hold, a spokesperson for Pfizer claimed on Monday that the company is a part of Operation Warp Speed. 

While this news from Pfizer and BioNTech is a huge sigh of relief, the world still has some ways to go, but we are on the right path. Continue to wear your mask and social distance every time you’re in a public setting and listen to your healthcare provider’s advice. As long as we keep abiding by the guidelines and waiting for the vaccine to be approved, this will all be over before we know it.

How President-Elect Joe Biden Plans To Fight The Covid-19 Pandemic

Citizens of the US can expect a national mask policy, increase in Covid-19 testing sites, and the possibility of a nationwide lockdown once President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. The Biden-Harris campaign laid out a step-by-step plan for addressing the pandemic which includes a detailed list of new policies, protections, and processes that will help frontline workers and the American people curb the spread and hopefully minimize the amount of new cases/hospitalizations. 

The campaign also announced its own specific Covid-19 advisory board co-chaired by former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and  Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. The timing of this transition of power couldn’t have come at a better time, as the US has surpassed 100,000 new Covid-19 cases a day all last week, projecting a very difficult winter for the nation. 

While potential vaccines around the world are showing great promise in their ability to combat and protect against Covid-19, the process and time it will take to widely distribute those vaccines is too uncertain not to start making changes now. Biden has also said he would be listening to scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who current President Trump has demonized throughout the pandemic. 

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“I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives. In order to keep the country running and moving and the economy growing, and people employed, you have to fix the virus. I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.”

Up until now the Trump administration has allowed state governments to decide whether or not they wanted to shut down, reopen, impose mask requirements, and purchase their own testing materials and personal protective gear. This has led to America being one of the most infected countries in the world that has seen little to no improvement in terms of case numbers and deaths dropping. As of today there have been over 10 million cases and 238,000 deaths in the US. 

Biden’s plan will call for a coordinated national strategy that would use the Defense Protection Act to actually ensure the US has all the proper healthcare equipment it needs to handle the rest of this pandemic. Testing sites will also likely double throughout the county, and at-home testing will be made more widely available. Biden also claims that he would establish a US public health job corps to “mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country to support contact tracing efforts, which has largely been left for the states to arrange, and assist populations at higher risk.”

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It’s unclear how it will be executed, but Biden will likely also call for a national mask requirement in all public settings/spaces. It will likely start with masks being required in all federal buildings and interstate transportation systems. The CDC will also be directed to provide communities with all the evidence-based guidance they have for combatting the virus. The CDC will also have more of a say in terms of school and business reopenings, as well as stay-at-home orders nationwide. Dr. Howard Koh is a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the former assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration who recently spoke with the press about how hopeful he was for the future of this pandemic under the Biden administration. 

“I would expect that under President Biden, he would reinstitute regular briefings with Fauci, galvanized by the White House, but empowering the top scientists to convey their knowledge and guidance on behalf of the American people.”

Biden will also repair the damaged relationship that’s been created between the US and the World Health Organization. His administration hopes that the American people will see this pandemic is not political, and every move and decision that will be made will be based on science and with the greater interest of the American people’s health and safety at heart. 

Experts also expect that by the time Biden takes office there will likely be initial doses of a coronavirus vaccine made available to priority populations like health-care workers. The initial plan there would involve how to distribute and manage the administering of the vaccine when it first appears, so for now America will have to continue to wait as these policies and treatments come to life.

FDA Claims A Covid-19 Vaccine Needs To Be 50% Effective To Be Distributed 

This past summer the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that in order for a Covid-19 vaccine to be approved for federal regulation and distribution it would need to be safe and “prevent disease or decrease its severity in at least 50% of people who are vaccinated.” 

No vaccine is 100% effective, however, some do work better than others depending on how high that percentage is. For example, one of the most successful vaccine’s out there is the treatment for measles, which after two doses works to be 97% effective in preventing the disease. Dr. Jeff Kwong is a professor of public health and family medicine and interim director of the Center for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto, who recently spoke with the media about this percentage.

“I know that 50 percent does sound low but that is still some protection, and some protection is better than no protection.”

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The FDA set this percentage to be relatively low through their emergency use authorizations, which can speed up the process in which a vaccine or drug treatment is distributed to the public if the danger is imminent enough. This means, however, that a vaccine could become available that will only help half of the people receiving it. It could also impact people differently, some might become fully immune from it, and some may just have a reduced case should they be infected. 

A 50% effective Covid-19 vaccine, however, is way better than no vaccine, according to the FDA. Experts used the flu vaccine as an example, claiming that its effectiveness can vary year to year based on how severe the actual flu season is. Within the past decade alone the flu vaccine has fluctuated between 20% and 60% in terms of effectiveness, however, it always reduces the amount of illness, hospitalizations and influenza caused deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Gregory Poland is the director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group who recently discussed the substantial impact a 50% effective Covid-19 vaccine could actually have on the nation.

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“If you had a 60 or 70 percent effective vaccine and everybody took it, you might actually be reaching toward herd immunity and potentially then dampen down this pandemic.”

Right now, however, researchers still don’t know how effective each experimental vaccine is because the trials are ongoing. Poland explained that most of the clinical trials occurring are focusing on how much the vaccine actually prevents the disease. Once the studies are completed it will be revealed who benefited the most from vaccination. 

Researchers are focusing on different demographics to get a greater understanding over how this virus may impact certain individuals differently. For example, some studies are focusing on how a vaccine may affect a man versus a woman, individuals of different age groups, or individuals with underlying health conditions. 

Once a vaccine is one the market it’s still going to take a while for the pandemic to come to a close, as vaccinating millions of people takes time, so policies such as facial coverings, social distancing and hand washing will continue to exist in our world for quite some time. 

CDC Suggests 50% Of People Living With Someone Who Has Covid-19 Get It 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report last week that suggests if you’re living in a house with someone who has the coronavirus there’s a 50% chance you will also get infection, regardless of age or health status. 

The study is currently still ongoing in over 100 households in Nashville, Tennessee and Marshfield, Wisconsin and has been occurring since April. The results showed that roughly 53% of participants who were living with an individual who tested positive for Covid-19 also tested positive within a week. 

75% of the positive participants who contracted the virus from an individual they live with tested positive for the virus within five days or less of their living partners positive results. To help get these percentages down, the CDC also released guidelines with the study results on what to do if someone you’re living with tests positive for Covid-19. 

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“Persons who suspect that they might have COVID-19 should isolate, stay at home, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if feasible. Ideally isolation should start as soon as the person suspects that they might be sick, even before any testing is done.”

Most of the sick patients in the study claimed to have spent four or more hours in the same room as the people they live with a day before they began feeling symptoms. That initial unwell feeling is known as the “pre-symptomatic period” and is when health experts suspect an individual is most infectious if they have Covid-19. 

“It’s because the disease can spread at that moment that the disease is so contagious. That’s why it’s spread around the world in such an uncontained way,”  said Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s Executive Director of Health Emergencies. The airflow within a home is the biggest factor when it comes to infecting the other individuals living in that home. 

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The coronavirus is able to spread the most easily in indoor spaces when people are close together in poorly-ventilated areas. So it makes perfect sense that a house would be the perfect breeding ground for the virus depending on how many individuals are living in that space. 

The study’s results also showed that 40% of sick patients were sleeping in the same room as another person they live with before they knew they were positive. Participants in the study were aged anywhere from 12 to 60-years-old. 

The study’s authors went on to suggest that both the sick individual and all others within a household should start wearing masks as soon as they think they might be sick. This is especially true if you know you shared closed spaces with people when appropriate distancing was not possible. Even though the weather’s getting cooler, it’s also a good idea to crack some windows open and turn on some fans to keep the air circulating. 

Every individual in a household with a Covid-19 positive patient should run under the assumption that they also have the virus. Meaning they should also isolate themselves as much as possible for two weeks. Continue to maintain proper health and safety guidelines and be diligent, as this pandemic is nowhere near done yet.

Coronavirus Vaccine Bottle

Scientists Aren’t Convinced A “Warp Speed” Vaccine Will End The Pandemic

The American people, along with the rest of the world, are placing their hopes of defeating Covid-19 and ending this pandemic on a vaccine. There are multiple trials occurring around the world all at different stages, and while a safe and effective vaccine is top priority, time is also a factor considering this virus is continuing to infect and kill people.

Clinical vaccine trials are mainly meant to show whether a Covid-19 vaccine candidate will prevent any symptoms of the disease. The trials typically study between 30,000 to 60,000 volunteers, and some scientists are worried that the time spent on these trials will be too brief and too small to prove if the vaccine can actually prevent individuals from being hospitalized and dying, instead of just preventing a sore throat. 

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The United States specifically should wait for the most optimal vaccine to be on the international market, according to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

“There’s a tension between getting every piece of information and getting a vaccine out in time to save lives. Would we like to know if the vaccine reduces illness or mortality? Of course. But there is a real time pressure. This is a pandemic. It’s explosive.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public meeting this Thursday to discuss how rigorously Covid-19 vaccine candidates would need to be tested before the US considered them safe enough for distribution. “Simply preventing mild cases is not enough and may not justify the risks associated with vaccination,” said Peter Doshi, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

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On the other hand researchers also know that vaccines that prevent mild versions of a disease typically prevent the more severe version of the disease as well, so there are still good reasons to focus on studies involving milder cases of Covid-19. For example, according to Doshi, the original trials for a measles vaccine showed that it only prevented the virus itself, but not hospitalizations or deaths. Later studies, however, showed that the vaccine drastically reduced mortality, and according to the World Health Organization worldwide deaths from the measles fell by 73% in between 2000 and 2018 due to vaccines. 

In general, proving a vaccine can prevent severe illness and death is much harder than showing it can protect against mild illness, because hospitalizations and deaths are more rare. Individuals who volunteer for vaccine trials are also typically on the healthier side. 

“We’re probably not going to have the perfect vaccine. But I do think we’re likely to have vaccines that, if we can show they’re safe, can put an inflection point on this pandemic. … I think it’s still important to have a vaccine that has some effect even on mild illness.”

As it currently stands the Covid-19 pandemic has infected 8.7 million people in the US alone, and the mortality rate is about .6%. Leading scientists believe that the ideal vaccine will provide a sterilizing immunity front he virus. This would mean that the injection would prevent all symptoms of Covid-19 as well as secondary infections that could typically occur from the virus. Trials are projected to grow almost 10 times the sizes they are now as the months progress, and like any vaccine, the world won’t truly know how well it works until it’s actually here. 

Airport Security

How Covid-19 Has Changed The Way We Go Through Airport Security

The Covid-19 pandemic has truly changed the entire world and the multitude of industries that run it. One of the biggest industries that has been impacted internationally by the virus has been the travel/tourism industry. Obviously a virus that spreads through close contact in public spaces would disrupt the businesses that make their money from hundreds of strangers coming in close proximity with one another, however, now that the world has been enduring this pandemic for eight months, the industry has adjusted to better accommodate for the new normal we’re all living in. 

Specifically the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in airports have taken on a whole list of health and safety procedure protocols to protect themselves and passengers from contracting the virus as they pass through airport security checkpoints. 

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Obviously travelling seems like it should be out of the question for anyone in the middle of a global health crisis involving a virus that spreads easily, however, as America has proven if there’s an opportunity to do things normally, people are going to jump on that opportunity, especially when flights are the cheapest they’ve been in years. 

When travelers first enter the airport they’ll notice a difference in experience almost immediately. Individuals are prompted to scan their own boarding passes when they first enter the TSA area of the airport. They’re prompted to do this at every checkpoint throughout the airport, this way TSA workers don’t have to be handed thousands of passes during a given day and can reduce the risk of cross-contamination. 

In a pre-pandemic context, one of the biggest discrepancies all airport travelers could agree on was the limited amount of liquids you’re able to take with you on a plane. However, now that we’re living in a time where hand sanitizer is everyone’s best friend, airlines are allowing travelers to pack sanitizer in containers up to 12 ounces. The hand sanitizer just needs to be removed from the luggage so that it can pass through a separate X-ray screening; this is to ensure the liquid is actually sanitizer. 

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Other liquids still must be less than 3.4 fluid ounces and passengers need to be adamant about checking to make sure all liquids and aerosols meet those requirements. If not, the passengers themselves will need to remove the item to prevent cross-contamination which will just take up even more time, so be extra careful when packing any liquids or aerosols that aren’t hand sanitizer. 

Since many individuals are opting not to buy any food or drinks at the airports, TSA is allowing for any meals or snacks that one wants to take through security to go through as long as it’s removed from the luggage and in a clear plastic bag placed in a separate tray. This small measure has already been thought to decrease the possibility of cross-contamination greatly. 

TSA agents have also been installing acrylic barriers in all major airports around the country. These barriers are specifically designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 between travelers and TSA agents. They’re being placed at all TSA podiums, X-Ray areas, secondary search areas, and checked baggage drop-off locations. 

The TSA has also begun testing out self-service facial recognition technology that can immediately verify a passengers identity. The technology is currently being tested at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport where passengers are prompted to scan their own ID’s so that the machine can verify their identity and boarding information. If the technology proves to be successful in the coming weeks it will likely be implemented in all major airports throughout the country.