I traveled during a global pandemic

By: Kirsten Sibley

8 May 2019

A deafening silence echoed through the long empty halls of Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye Airport. Just less than three months ago the once bustling, chaotic hub for global connection began canceling it’s flights due to the Coronavirus. Rows of seats were now empty, vendors were closed, and not a soul except for the security was to be seen.

My flight from San Francisco had a similar eerie atmosphere. Passengers were distanced 20 rows apart and the usual in-flight service was replaced by a single attendant offering two bottles of water and a sandwich upon boarding. To me this was all expected. My family warned me of the precautions the travel industry was taking to protect its passengers. My travel to Hawaiʻi was essential as I had to move all of my belongings out of my house and back to San Francisco by the end of the month. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the sense of disconnect beyond social distancing. Hidden behind masks, people could not rely on facial cues to communicate. Eyes peering over the cloth would dart around, as making eye contact was uncomfortable. Everyone who I encountered was hesitant and over cautious to talk, using short sentence fragments in a caveman like way to keep interactions brief and to the point. It was as if all social norms went out the door as people went into a survival-like mode.

Upon my arrival in Hawaiʻi, a thermometer was immediately put to my forehead. I waited in a line six feet apart, supervised by airport security, who would stare you down as if daring you to do anything that may provoke them. I took their intimidation as their way of making visitors feel unwelcome. Once they realized I was a resident their entire tone was much lighter and it was a breeze as I signed away my rights for the mandatory 14-day quarantine. It is required by the state to check in each day via an app called Safe Travels. I would have to fill out a survey confirming that I was to stay at my location and had no signs of fever or cough. Currently I am on Day 4 of my stay-at-home order. The government called me personally once to triple check to make sure I was at my house. I appreciate that they are doing their part in checking in and I understand that by signing the papers at the airport gave them permission to do so, however, I feel as though this experience is so abnormal, something I would watch in a utopian-based TV series. 

Passengers receive required temperature checks after arriving. 

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