If there wasn’t enough stress and confusion about traveling before, throwing in that masks are no longer required can make you, if not uncomfortable, unsure. Well, let me explain my experience in an effort to paint an accurate picture to, at a minimum, clear things up.
I decided to take a trip maskless and see what happened. And, oh boy, was this a great trip to try it out, keeping in mind that I am vaccinated, double boosted and right after I received my first booster I did contract Covid-19, but had very mild symptoms (a runny nose for two days).
My trip was to Seatrade Cruise Global, a truly international event which it describes as “Seatrade Cruise Global 2022 is expected to welcome more than 10,000 attendees, representing 80+ cruise line brands and 500+ exhibitors from over 140 countries“. My guess is that it wasn’t 10,000, but certainly enough to make the spread of Covid from all over the world possible even though everyone was required to be vaccinated (though the checking wasn’t exactly rigorous).
The day before I departed I took a Covid-19 antigen test to be sure I was starting out uninfected. I was negative. But I did pack some KN-95 masks with me just in case.
My journey started with my flying from Lake Tahoe, California to Miami, Florida for the Seatrade Cruise Global conference. This required that I traverse the airport in Reno, Nevada, fly to Denver, Colorado, spend time in the Denver International Airport and United Club, get on a second plane to Miami, Florida, traverse one of the worst airports in the world (Miami International Airport), take an Uber to Miami Beach, and then engage in four days of cocktail parties, dinners, panel discussions and press conferences, as well as wandering around the massive conference floor before it was back to the airport, a longer flight to San Francisco, California, traversing that airport, and second flight on a tiny airplane and then, finally, traversing the Reno airport.
I was fairly surprised to find that probably 99% of folks (ticket counter, gate agents, flight attendants, passengers, conference attendees, restaurant servers, etc.) were maskless. Fortunately, there was no shaming or worse of those that chose to wear their masks, although knowing that placing a mask below your nose or using a cotton mask is good for little…and that is mostly what I saw of mask wearers.
During the show, eMed – the supplier of the Binax home antigen tests – was at the conference and was offering $100 to everyone who took one of their tests. So with a bit of trepidation (what if I was now positive?) I took the test on the last day of the conference. I was negative and $100 richer!
But my testing was not done! I waited three days after my last flight (that is how long it takes for an antigen test to somewhat accurately pick up an infection) and took another antigen test. I was and am negative.
I have to admit that it was a bit weird and disconcerting at first. I think that since I had committed to this experiment I powered through. And you know what? After seeing it being so “normal” with everyone not wearing a mask I relaxed and it was fine.
While my results are my results and obviously are not yours, I exposed myself to four different airports, four different flights (amounting to two transcontinental journeys), a number of restaurants and lounges in Miami, Florida, two Uber drivers, and, without limitation, to thousands and thousands of people from all over the world in a confined area…and I did not contract an infection.
It may be ironic to say this, but my suggestion is that everyone needs to take a breath. Yes, it is possible to contract Covid-19 even if double vaccinated and boosted. But I don’t think my remaining Covid-free was simply the luck of the draw.
And, of course, if you are at higher risk you need to view things with a bit more caution.
And if you are going to wear a mask, you aren’t going to be shamed…just be sure you are wearing a high-quality mask and you are wearing it properly. Otherwise, you are just inconveniencing yourself.
The world is opening up. I hope that my journey and experience going maskless helps you understand what is is like to travel now.