COVID 19 and Flying

Immediately after posting the COVID-19 and Spanish Flu, a friend asked why I fly if social distancing is so important. Good question.

I decided a comprehensive answer was called for, one that illustrates how thoughtful and open-minded inquiry was used to come to my conclusions. In order of importance, here is how I choose at this time and subject to change upon acquiring new insight, information, or awareness to handle the pandemic:

  1. Avoid catching the virus, ie, what has caused me to contract viruses in the past? The main ways I have gotten sick in the past are going to the gym, having kids in school (particularly preschool, and I have a 4 year old), touching my face after being out in public and before washing my hands, and being in close proximity to someone that is obviously sick. I no longer do any of these things, and I wash my hands a lot. I also social distance (I will answer how flying fits into this later in the post).
  2. Stay healthy. This involves a lifetime of reading and experimentation, along with studying recent information. Because I have always been interested in staying healthy there are dozens of things I do, but the foundation honors my belief in body, mind, and spirit and that being healthy includes attention to all of these. I exercise daily even if most days are an hour long walk. I eat well, and I fast daily for 16 hours, do not eat processed foods, drink only wine (mostly), take supplements that I have carefully reviewed, had medical guidance about, and proved to myself work. Each day I make sure to meditate or do breathing exercises.
  3. Stay connected with others. Calling folks on the phone is one way but when you have children it is nice to see them. My kids range from 4 to 34 years of age and are all over the place. At first I did not want to see them for fear of catching the virus, but later decided I had to balance a healthy protocol with important family and recreational needs. It was scary, but after seeing the first kid it became easier, and then letting my daughter (who has not gone to preschool since March 2020) have friends come to play with her. Then I studied the airlines and found that Southwest recirculates all air inside the aircraft every three minutes and uses HEPA filters. Based on all of this, I decided we would fly on Southwest and visit family and friends. This has been critical in the sanity of my wife and daughter, and for me too. We remain careful when we travel, do our best to maintain distance from others, and only stay in homes or hotels where we can open windows and turn off recirculating air.
  4. Avoid news, social media, and trends. This is difficult and requires conscious effort. When we become confused we look for answers, some of us pick whatever is easy and convenient while others are thoughtful and careful. Some of us hold on to the opinions and beliefs we choose and others are open to new information and changing our minds. It can be very frustrating and mentally draining to get mired down in social bickering. This does not mean I am an ostrich with my head in the sand, it only means I prefer to carefully choose my news sources and social groups.

COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu

The entire COVID-19 or Coronavirus pandemic situation is quite disturbing, made worse by its disgusting politicization and a complete lack of leadership by all factions of government and society. The media has failed to maintain neutrality making it difficult to get perspective and helpful information. This causes fear and anxiety and that bothers me greatly. There is danger, there is something we need to do to protect ourselves, our family, our loved ones, and our species.

From a personal perspective nothing matters but saving oneself, saving the family. Further out in consciousness is the desire to save one’s society, or humanity. Even further out is the awareness that evolutionally these events may be healthy. This is not a popular notion.

I try to look at things from as neutral a perspective as possible. If life is to grow then it may require events that challenge survival. But I balance these perspectives with practical common sense. I want to protect myself and my family. How can I make sense of all the information out there, knowing some information is false and some is valid, recognizing there are both agendas and ignorance?

Looking back in history seems to be a reasonable first step, so I ask the question what happened to the Spanish Flu? First, lets remind ourselves what was the Spanish Flu.

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans. The 1918 flu was first observed in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia before swiftly spreading around the world. At the time, there were no effective drugs or vaccines to treat this killer flu strain. Citizens were ordered to wear masks, schools, theaters and businesses were shuttered and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues before the virus ended its deadly global march.

Obviously similar to what we now face, and even more deadly. The same article goes on to explain that no origin of the Spanish Flu is known, although many are suspected. The symptoms and deaths affected people differently than past flu outbreaks with many young people dying. Hospital overcrowding, shortages of doctors and healthcare workers, quarantines, and the closing of businesses and schools happened then as they do now. There was a lack of good information and even guidance that made the death toll worse.

Before the spike in deaths attributed to the Spanish Flu in 1918, the U.S. Surgeon General, Navy and the Journal of the American Medical Association had all recommended the use of aspirin. Medical professionals advised patients to take up to 30 grams per day, a dose now known to be toxic. (For comparison’s sake, the medical consensus today is that doses above four grams are unsafe.) Symptoms of aspirin poisoning include hyperventilation and pulmonary edema, or the buildup of fluid in the lungs, and it’s now believed that many of the October deaths were actually caused or hastened by aspirin poisoning.

The advice given to the public by experts caused more deaths. Does this mean we cannot trust our experts? No, but it does mean we should be careful. We cannot simply jump on a bandwagon or point of view without careful consideration and open-mindedness. We must think for ourselves. We must remember we do not know everything, and neither do experts. Nature has its own way. Before I look at what is best for my family and self, I still wonder what happened to the Spanish Flu, where did it go?

By the summer of 1919, the flu pandemic came to an end, as those that were infected either died or developed immunity.

The virus ran its course. Ok, back to my family and me, was there anything that reduced deaths as the virus ran its course?

In both pandemics, the most effective immediate response was — and is — social distancing, Nichols said.

Social distance until the virus runs its course.

I am glad humanity tends to be optimistic and attempts to control destiny. I am glad we develop and invent medical technologies that fight off the many things that reduce lifespan and quality of life. But I remind myself that it is likely these many things will stay ahead of us, and that it is likely nature’s endeavor to help our species growth.

I am going to keep my heart and mind open to the suffering and needs of all humans, while honestly recognizing what I can do to help and then doing those things. I am going to monitor my fear and find ways to move forward that make sense, as opposed to simply steeping in social fear and confusion.

I am going to keep myself and my family away from sick people, and social distance as much as we can until the virus runs its course.