6 Pandemic Practices I Hope Remain Once We’re Vaccinated

I’ve been working from home since 2014 and so the pandemic hasn’t changed my work life that much, except for reduced travel, and making it more convenient to communicate with others who are now themselves working from home.

As the remote worker I used to play second fiddle to those physically in the conference room. I was a voice on a phone, that couldn’t always hear everything that was going on and found it difficult to find the right moment to interject without seeing nonverbal cues, or I was a face on a screen. Now meetings are optimized for everyone to be remote. I think we overuse zoom, when phone calls will do – not everything requires video – but everyone’s invested in overcoming technology hurdles that make my life easier.

I don’t mean to minimize the pandemic, it’s wreaked havoc on a lot of lives. I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I moved to Austin 7 years ago, gave up a downtown high rise for a house. That’s meant I’ve had a yard, and for the last year I’ve been able to eat dinner most nights with my daughter.

As we get ready to go back to ‘normal’ life, as vaccinations proceed apace, there are some changes around travel that I hope persist.

  1. I will continue to wear masks in airports and on planes during flu season. Masking and distancing didn’t eliminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it spreads too easily, but it sure seems to have suppressed the seasonal flu. I hated sniffling, sneezing seat opponents long before Covid-19, and the pandemic has made masking acceptable.

  2. I hope TSA continues to allow large hand sanitizer. TSA permits “one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags” separate from your freedom baggie full of 3 ounce liquids. While we should declare victory in the War On Water and go home, to the extent that doesn’t happen the hand sanitizer exception has proven workable throughout the last year.

  3. Extra cleaning of planes should continue, but may quietly wane. In tough times in the past one of the first things to get cut has been cleaning aircraft, with deep cleans pushed out to every 18 months or more. The extra cleaning overnight or even between each flight is not just a direct cost, it also takes time that means less efficient use of aircraft or flights that delay. There will be an incentive for airlines to quietly diminish their cleaning, though I certainly hope they do not.

  4. When will hotels stop their thorough room cleans? I want more housekeeping, not less, and a return to full service. But I do want an assurance that real cleaning is happening between each guest, too. There hasn’t been 100% compliance even over the past year but the stickers are reassuring at least.

  5. Contactless pickup of food whether restaurants or groceries, the proliferation of contact pickup options have been a boon. It saves time, and doing this with restaurants to bring food home to eat has been great – far better than UberEats or Door Dash as well. I hope more restaurants continue to offer a streamlined process for to-go ordering.

  6. Don’t make me fly out to give a talk unless in-person matters. A Zoom talk isn’t as good as in-person, but it’s a whole lot easier to accept. I can hope on for 60-90 minutes, give a talk and take questions, and this is so much more efficient than Ubering to the airport, taking a connection, checking into a hotel, and doing all of this several hours earlier than necessary as a hedge against airline delays and cancellations. There should be a higher value threshold to hopping on a plane for this than there used to be, though of course I’ll still happily do it whenever it makes sense.

I’m so thankful for so much in the face of the last year. I’ve been able to grow closer with my family, even as I’ve given up so much international travel. Hopefully there are some things that we’ve learned in the last year that can continue to make travel and other parts of life even better.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve noticed a definite decline in colds , sniffles, and stomach flu over the past year. I, also, will continue to wear masks in airports and other crowded venues, like subways. Also, ubiquitous hand sanitizer is a bonus to everyone: especially those employees who have frequent contact with the public.

  2. The hand sanitizer exception shows just how ridiculous the TSA War on Water is. Many hand sanitizers have a high enough alcohol content that they are flammable. So it’s ok to bring 12oz of that, but not an 8oz mini bottle of water or a 4oz mini apple juice for a toddler?

  3. Interesting how the seasonal flu just magically disappeared…very few if any reported cases this season…could it be that the numbers were folded into the COVID-19 statistics?…Nah!!…CDC would never, ever do anything like that.

  4. One more item should remain. #7 The on-time performance of all airlines should continue as the number flights increases.

  5. I have a dear friend who swears she will never stop wearing a mask. She used to be sick all the time and when she wasn’t her allergies would flare up; she hasn’t experienced any of this since she started masking so she is never going back.

  6. Stop with the wear mask for ever talk! I assume Mr. Leff was talking about a voluntary protocol for himself but others hear this talk and they jump straight to the government should mandate it! It happens all the time in government. Someone complains enough and some bureaucrat writes a rule regardless of need. If anyone wants to voluntarily mask in airports and on flights that is their right and business. We now have a Federal mandate for mask use ton transportation due to the self empowered mask police advocating for it. If it had been left to airline policy they would lifted their mask mandate as soon as practical. To the contrary the Federal government wants to protect us from all risk, real or imagined. Fauci keeps moving the goal post and now he is saying we must wear mask well in to 2022. It could last even longer for air travel thanks to “government can fix everything Biden”. I hope to resume flying someday but not with the mask police and over zealous airline personnel causing drama every day. So just stop with the mask are a good idea forever. Just buy your mask and wear it, leave the rest of us alone.

  7. Many years ago I read that wearing a simple hospital mask on a long flight will help your lungs retain moisture and reduce one of the effects that contributes to jet lag. But now there’s been so much written on masks and airplanes that it is impossible to find that article on google.

    As an aside, there is a tremendous body of research on the negative correlation between humidity and the flu, all of which was completely ignored during COVID for what reason I don’t know. One surmise is that viruses can attach more readily to dried out lung tissue. Others suggest that humidity in the air inactivates aerosolized viruses. I imagine that it’s possible that masks help by keeping your lungs from drying out in the winter and therefore making them more resistant to viruses.

  8. Funny how some people forget the true hero’s in this pandemic. The front line medical workers who treated the millions of covid sufferers needing hospitalization to survive or many times didn’t and they died a very painful and lonely death. So many Doctors, Nurses, EMT’s etc got swamped and overwhelmed and were faced with what essentially was combat circumstances. They risked their lives to serve their patients and saved a lot of people by doing that……yet people like LennyD cling to some conspiracy theory that these same Doctors are lying about what killed their patients because why? He can’t handle the truth? He needs something to cling to because he doesn’t like the truth?
    What an incredible slap in the face to these hero’s and I’m sure he won’t think twice if he needs emergency medical care and goes to a Doctor for help.
    Our Country has devolved into accepting lies as OK and slander as acceptable behavior like never before…..we all know who has lead us down that path.

  9. I’m fine with making those things optional, so that those who want can practice them or seek out providers that offer them.

    For me at least half the value of attending a conference is the side conversations and interaction that happen apart from the structured activity, and actually getting to know new people as well as touch base with those I know already instead of just seeing their face as one among many, if at all, in a Zoom meeting. Yes, you can get the input from the main speaker that way, but to me the overall experience is vastly diminished.

  10. You forgot the most important one, Gary: Hyatt stopped their campaign for eliminating single-use toiletries.

    Haha, turns out “the environment” wasn’t as important as making sure guests would show up and feel like the facilities are safe and clean.

  11. Any supposed suppression of the seasonal flu would have basically nothing to do with mask wearing and everything to do with the social lockdowns – no school, no sporting, music and other entertainment gatherings and not even family gatherings. Keep people isolated and of course you’re going to “suppress” pretty much any contagion. Masks are irrelevant. Science tells us that if you can breathe through your mask, you’re not stopping a virus. But that’s what’s great about freedom. You are free to wear your magic mask at airports and on airplanes if you prefer. And if you think those masks are guarding you from all viruses, then you should be wearing them pretty much everywhere another person might be. Have at it. Just don’t try and force your faulty science on those who disagree with you. And why would you want to anyway? If your mask really protects you, non-mask wearers are only hurting themselves. They should be no threat to you. Because masks work. Am i rite? lol

  12. The continuing inability of some people to understand that mask wearing is primarily for the protection of others and not themselves, is worrying. COVID may be being beaten back (slowly) but, apparently, willful ignorance is here to stay.

  13. There is, for better or worse, a pretty good chance that government mandates for mask wearing on planes will be with us for a long time, and possibly forever. If you think that “forever” sounds like an exaggeration, I present you the examples of the TSA, The War on Water, and the removal of shoes (for many) at security checkpoints.

  14. China has been wearing masks long before CV19 (because of poor air quality?) yet SARS and CV19 originated from there.

    CDC stopped reporting the flu cases separately during this ‘pandemic,’ and last I looked in their website, they just merge the number of flu and ‘CV19’ cases together. I wonder why lol.

  15. It seems the same people who get their shorts in a knot when required to wear a mask have no problem at all with government rules that say women must always cover up their breasts in public.

  16. I disagree with Zoom talks being as effective. I am a professor and my students have told me that it is much harder for them to stay focused on a lecture than one in-person. I have felt the same way when I have had to attend Zoom talks and conferences online.

    Also, in my opinion traveling somewhere is usually the fun part of attending a conference.

  17. What I am hoping that resumes as soon as possible is daily maid service in your room. For e.g. this past year made several trips to some high end resorts here in Florida where the room rate nightly was over $500 or more a night and there was no daily housekeeping, just a change of towels on request! I don’t go on vacation to be making my bed every morning and cleaning the toilet! I rather keep my money and stay home!

  18. The anti-maskers on here are so laughably out of touch. Masks stop microscopic droplets that people exhale. Stop the droplets, stops the spread of all viruses. Pretty simple! Many Asian countries, people wear masks automatically as societal goodwill. Especially if one is sick! Japan is the best example. Most Japanese mask up, during the winter. The lower levels of Covid infections in Japan is proof that it works. But here in America, we have all these pompous asses, who think they know it ALL! I really do hope that masking on airplanes becomes permanent! Because for last 20 years, I have caught a cold, right after flying just about every time. I have not had a cold since the beginning of Covid. And I flew to Europe in March 2020, wearing a mask. No cold, no Covid!

  19. JohnB says: The anti-maskers on here are so laughably out of touch. Masks stop microscopic droplets that people exhale. Stop the droplets, stops the spread of all viruses. Pretty simple!

    JohnB: Just out of curiosity, how do you square the simplicity of that observation with the fact that the world’s leading epidemiologists (CDC and WHO) only discovered that fact in June of 2020, approximately 100 years after people started wearing masks during the Spanish Flu?

  20. I like your ideas and the points you cite in your post Gary. I agree with your points. I see nothing wrong with wearing masks on airplanes, buses and trains (and other closely confined public places) after the pandemic is finally brought under control. Masks do curb the spread of viruses and other pathogens that cause disease. I truly truly wish that people would stop politicizing mask wearing and just appreciate the science behind these. This politicization of mask wearing is what has contributed (to a significant extent) to people not wearing masks and the proliferation of SARS-CoV-2.
    I know that many of you already know that in some foreign countries, wearing masks by many people on airplanes and other public means of transpiration has been a daily standard operating procedure even before this pandemic commenced.

    I am a firm believer, as are many of my physician friends, that a lot of these COVID19 related deaths could have been prevented had we masked properly, social distanced properly, and not politicized this entire COVID19 matter.. We would have been looking at a much much smaller number of dead people one year after COVID19 started here in the US.

    I think the measures you propose in your post are reasonable and efficacious even though a lot of our citizens will have been vaccinated (hopefully) by the middle to latter part of this year. Thank you. Respectfully submitted.

  21. Correction to my post above. I meant to state “modes of transportation” and not “modes of transpiration” – Inadvertent typo.

  22. Well the TSA thinks that 1 person with a liter of a liquid is a danger, but 10 people traveling together each with 1/10th of a liter are not. If that seems logical to you then I have a Nigerian prince with a great investment offer. It’s all show, like a man I know who as a flight dispatcher. His pasta was confiscated as being too much of a liquid. but I bet he could have gotten a bag of oranges through. Ridiculous. As for the masks…I’ll be glad when the day comes that you can use them if you want, as a lot of people did in Japan before this mess started. I will not, my wife likely will. But given the situation we’re not there now, and the state governments making it optional are asking for real trouble. We are getting closer. Probably.

  23. @ JohnW

    How much energy does it take to be so outraged? I don’t 100% trust any governmental agency no matter who is in charge, questions are a good thing….regardless I mask up for the comfort and respect of others. Is that a slap in the face to our medical professionals? I think not!

  24. Remember that there has never been a proven case of covid transmitted by touch. It’s airborne. We can stop this obsessive cleaning, tho I think it did help cut down on colds and flu in every family and school this year!

  25. I can’t wait till this “mask thing” is over. No more mask wearing in a hospital operating room. After all, masks don’t offer any protection do they?

  26. I am so done with the mask conversation. Not anti or pro. Just tired of the discussion and honestly feel we are going down a very dangerous path.

    Couldn’t tell you the difference between a protestant and a catholic. But it was enough of a difference for people to kill each other and blow things up in Northen Ireland.

    Islam, Christianity & Judaism are pretty much worshipping the same God but the slight differences have resulted in maybe 100 million dead? Minimum?

    I could go on. We create excuses to kill each other.

    Not trying to be dramatic. But how long before mask vs anti-mask turns violent?

    Just calm the F down everyone.

    I’m checking out. No more reading or posting until this nonsense ends. And hopefully ends before we start killing each other over it.

  27. @johnb @DoctorSS
    If you want to wear a mask for the rest of your lives I do not care. But to advocate it be permanent for 100-300 people or more on every flight and within the airport should be required to wear a mask just to prevent a few common colds or the flu is ridiculous. The cost/benefit ratio to that is not even in the realm of credibility. There is no such thing as 0 risk. We assume risk everyday, without even thinking about it, that are much greater than the slight chance of getting a cold or flu while traveling. Those who demand 0 risk should be the ones to make the sacrifice, not those of us who want to get on with life and are not afraid to do so.

  28. Gary: such a wonderful and thoughtful post. One of my mind’s eye memories is all of the pictures (and my memories of travels thereto) of the wonderful Asians 20+ years ago (and continuing to now) wearing masks if/when they were sick themselves; consideration for others is one of my favorite qualities, which they so exhibited in spades (too bad the ccp-ers murdered so many americans and others trying to cover this/their virus.) [g: please, please, please, make your life and lifestyle much more healthy, if at least for your daughter; my greatest concern is for the kiddos, for their futures, and only then: how wonderful parents can make their kiddos’ lives, and thereby the worlds’, so much even better and better….)

    Likely the most frequent action I will take in the future is wearing a (quality and American-made/tested n-95) mask in situations where a lot of people are congregated (not withstanding ‘hope to be frequent flyer again’ s stupid, unitelligible, ignorant bullshit).

    All: I’ve mentioned this previously on this site: you really, really, do not want to be admitted to my icu with covid; i’ve never seen/experienced such brutality of disease inflicted upon our patients. Also, related, do what it takes (it’s not hard to figure out what) to not be overweight or obese. Don’t give me any excuses; tough love: just simply do it. Lemme primarily focus on saving the lives of preemies and kiddos in our nicu/picu, they are so amazingly wonderful, so inspiring, which carry your genes into the future, which make the world such a better place for many decades/centuries to come.

  29. Actually, Ryan: don’t be an idiot. Laws: drive ~55ish in a 55; don’t rape children or others; don’t want me to shoot you in the face?-thankfully there’s a law for that…

    Act with morality and ethics. If not: we have laws for that. It’s called civilized society.

    If not? gimme addresses; this (otherwise very peaceful dude, tho armed) believes in western justice; idiot ‘hope to be frequent blah blah blah’, what’s your address? ;)) I promise not to wear a black mask so your loved ones can see who did it.

    hehe //s

  30. Get your vaccine and continue to wear your mask to signal your virtue, and leave the rest of us alone.

  31. Some genius wrote that if you can breathe through your mask you’re not suppressing a virus. Wish science was as simple as that. It’s a combination of factors that helps to keep us safe.

  32. Could we at least allow bottled water as our “hand sanitizer” allotment with the TSA?

    For those that say we eliminated the flu, that is wrong. I had a flu shot in September and have had the flu twice and Covid once since then. It isn’t that the flu went away, it’s that people who don’t have to go out in public aren’t exposed to it as much. Just wait until the next flu season with immune systems depleted from all the masking. I do agree with people masking up if they want to on planes during flu season but it shouldn’t be required if airplane air quality is supposed to be so good.

    The one thing I do hope that goes away is tv reporters doing a remote shot in an empty parking lot or whatnot, wearing a mask to look “cool” on TV. Stupid.

  33. I would like to add: People washing their hands.

  34. @Kimmie

    Colds, pneumonia, and the flu didn’t disappear; they are just called getting Covid. Old people in nursing homes don’t stop getting pneumonia. It’s likely pneumonia killed the same number of people as 2019. It’s just labeled as a Covid death because people test positive for a 99.99% survival virus. If you test positive for HIV, it doesn’t mean you died from aids if you are hit by a car.

  35. I oppose continuing the mask mandate. If people want to that should be their prerogative.

  36. @Jackson Waterson

    Not sure what point you’re trying to make. A cold or flu is not the same as COVID. Some colds are caused by viruses in the same family, maybe that’s why you say that, but just as some flu viruses are much more deadly than others, the coronavirus that causes COVID is much worse than previous ones that have been circulating.

    Second, you have your analogy backwards. In your analogy, COVID is the car crash. If someone gets COVID and dies due to the effects of COVID, even if they have cancer, COVID is the primary cause. I believe most death certificates list more than one cause of death if there was more than one.

    Lastly, your figures are off. On the lower end the CFR is 0.2%, or as you say, 99.8% “survivability”. That’s 1 death in 500. Not great odds. Let’s say it’s what you say, 99.99%, that’s 1 in 10,000, still not great. For reference, flying is about 1 in 1,000,000. Driving, 1 in 7000. And we do all sorts of risk mitigation for driving, and do not minimize the dangers.

    I don’t see why it would be prudent to minimize COVID, especially when the main interventions are so easy and effective. Just as wearing seatbelts when in a car or on a plane is a no brainer.

  37. In response to V. You are correct You make excellent points

    I think all it would take is for people who are COVID19 minimizers to visually observe what a patient with COVID19 pneumonia goes through when hospitalized and when in the ICU. The agony the patient goes through as well as the psychological trauma that the family undergoes would be sufficient to convince any disbeliever We would not be having this conversation

    I have a very hard time understanding people who choose to minimize this horrific disease It blows me away Totally blows me away

    Our physicians and healthcare workers have been slaving away trying to save COVID19 patients while such ridiculous nonbeliever opinions continue to persist We are all getting to the point of burnout not to mention compassion fatigue When is this ignorance going to end?

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