Column: Masks and duct tape, the new normal

Preparing for travel in new normal
Photo via Getty Images

Some time back we thought he pandemic was about over and people would be on the move again. We were partially correct. People are on the move and the pandemic is still with us. That has produced both positive and negative results.

TSA has reported record numbers of people going through screening at the airports. Cruise lines are once again sailing with a full roster of passengers and most resorts are enjoying pre-pandemic arrivals.

And all of that is where the problems come in.

There is a new breed of Americans: The “anti-vaxxers” and those who contend that being forced to wear a protective mask is a Communist plot to take over the United States. Amongst that group are many who dispute findings that of those coming down with any variant of Covid-19, 97 percent have not received even one does of vaccine. These unfortunate numbers include literally thousands of children returning to school and becoming infected.

To combat this resurgence in infections the tourism industry is attempting to institute procedures to protect passengers and guests. Virtually every airline requires passengers to be masked. That is in effect whether you’ve received your shots or not. Some cruise lines are segregating passengers who have not been vaccinated and they require, mostly, that passengers in public areas be masked.

There has been a rash of incidents where airline passengers, after takeoff, have refused to don a mask and become belligerent when a staffer asks them to do so. In a number of cases belligerency has turned to physical confrontation. And in too many cases flight attendants, both male and female, have been assaulted. Aside from the stupidity of such an act, it is a Federal offense to attack any member of a flight crew and will lead to stiff criminal penalties.

We have seen on television news clips taken by some passengers of these violent confrontations. Fortunately, other passengers have stepped up to assist. The aggressor has often been  restrained by the use of a ubiquitous roll of duct tape. There seems to be a constant finding of new uses for the tape.

For whatever reason, United Airlines, one of he preeminent air carriers has issued a directive that such passengers no longer be restrained in this manner. Perhaps asking them politely to put on a mask and stop being a jerk is the new requirement. Really?

On the return from a recent business trip to California this columnist was sitting in the United lounge at LAX on a very long layover for a flight home. The club was nearly empty and there was no one in proximity. Off came the mask.

A passing staffer politely motioned for the mask to be replaced. A quick look determined she was no carrying duct tape. But rules are rules and the mask went back on for the extended wait for the flight. It stayed on from LAX to Denver to New York. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

With New York, and Queens in particular, the epicenter of Northeast travel, and the rise of the virus, it truly behooves anyone traveling to protect themselves as well as fellow travelers. JFK and LGA are the major air hubs. Manhattan is a very busy cruise kick off and return. 

The European Union has re-instituted a ban on arriving Americans. They fear that allowing the unmasked and un-vaxxed masses will overwhelm their own citizens and health facilities. 

Preparing for an upcoming flight to Tel Aviv and then on to London, we have been required to provide proof of vaccination. The requirement to wear a mask while raveling goes without saying.

The old saying: “Your rights end at the tip of my nose,” holds very true today. After being cooped up for two years, people are just champing at the bit to get out and travel. It’s not that far down the road. But common sense and concern for the  health and well-being of others is what will open the travel doors sooner rather than later.

Bob Nesoff is the past national president of the North American Travel Journalists Association and is anxious to get back to traveling.

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