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How to protect yourself from COVID-19 when traveling: tips from a businessman who has made 33 business trips

Mika Manninen, the CEO of an American company based in Florida, was on the road roughly 75% of the time in 2020. He shared his experience on how not to get infected with coronavirus while traveling. CNBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

The CEO and co-founder of the dairy-free yogurt brand, a Finnish native who now resides in Palm Beach, Florida, made 33 flights (including 4 overseas) and spent 160 nights in hotels in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York , Seattle, London and Helsinki. Since early March - while most of the rest of the world has remained at home - Manninen has spent 9 days in his own home.

Manninen is an important worker - one in 11,3 million people in the food and agriculture industry in the United States. As the only person in his company who travels (other employees are not required to do this), he claims that he strictly followed the rules and, if necessary, isolated himself in hotel rooms for 14 days.

“There are a few trips that I didn’t make, some I considered too risky, and with others I couldn’t understand the rules,” he said.

On his business trips, Manningen adhered to a strict travel safety regime. Here's what he advises.

The hotel

  • “When I walk into my room, I wipe all surfaces with napkins - all doorknobs, light switches, remote control and telephone. In the bathroom, I also wipe the shower head. I'm 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) tall and I always have to correct her. "
  • “If I stay for a few nights, I only allow room cleaning every four days. After I cleaned the room myself, letting someone come in will only make me clean the whole room again. I leave trash and dirty towels outside the door and get fresh towels in return. ”
  • "Now that various states are back on lockdown, some hotels may need a letter stating that you are a critical employee before they allow you to check in, so keep it ready."

At the airport

Manninen says he is less worried about getting infected on planes, but the airport is "a different matter."

  • “When I enter the airport, I put on several layers of disposable gloves and take them off as I go. Walkways, escalators - remove layer, register, use touch screen kiosk - remove layer, TSA security check - remove layer. I didn't realize how many surfaces I was actually touching until I started paying attention to it. "
  • “Keep your distance. Sit alone in the corner. Don't buy anything: no food or drinks. If you buy water, wipe the bottle with antiseptic wipes. "
  • “Don't use the app on your phone as a ticket; use a paper ticket instead. Hundreds of passengers scan their phones and many put them on glass. "
  • “Find a small bathroom at the airport (avoid the toilet on the plane). I change my mask every time I use the bathroom. ”

On the subject: Flights during a pandemic: how to protect yourself from coronavirus at the airport and airplane

In airplane

According to World Health, aircraft cockpits undergo "complete air changes" 20 to 30 times per hour, and modern aircraft recycle up to 50% of cabin air through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that trap bacteria, fungi and viruses ...

For this reason, Manninen is more concerned about contact with surfaces in aircraft.

  • "Wipe all surfaces in your seat, including your seat belt, belt buckle, headrest, window shade, and overhead air and light controls."
  • “I expose as few skin areas as possible. It's funny, but I only wear collared shirts on the plane to just cover my neck. I don't let my skin touch any surfaces. "
  • “Change your mask every four hours; it is safer and, oddly enough, gives a feeling of freshness. "
  • Take extra masks. Last week I tried to drink masked water. Needless to say, I had to change it. "

In a rented car

Manninen has rented a car 22 times this year.

  • “Before you go, spend 10 minutes cleaning. I use disinfectant wipes to clean every surface I can touch, including the steering wheel, seat belt, key fob, seat adjusters, rearview mirror, and steering column adjuster. I believe that after that the car rental will become my little property ”.
  • “When I get out of the car, I put on my gloves, and when I come back, I get rid of them. I try to keep all germs outside. "

This procedure is not new

Manninen said he developed this procedure over a decade ago to avoid acute respiratory infections, which he suffered up to 5 times a year due to his travel schedule.

However, wearing a mask and gloves is something new, as is the reaction of others to his cleaning routine.

“The only difference right now is that I don't get that dude's paranoid stares that often,” he said. "But I thought that if by following this regime I can keep my health, I will help us all stay healthy, so it will be worth the extra effort."

On the subject: Coronavirus protection after quarantine: 3 items, without which you can not leave the house

Is a strict cleaning procedure a cure-all?

To date, Manninen has received two negative coronavirus test results. However, he faced ridicule and fear from others.

“When I flew to Europe in late February, I was doing my usual cleaning of my seat, and two guys across the aisle were looking at me,” he said. “One said,“ We ​​should probably do the same. Maybe he's right. " Another looked at me and said in Swedish, "Dumbass."

His father from Scandinavia, whom Manninen described as a "super-smart healthy guy", refused to meet with him even through a glass window because his son "came from the USA, where the virus is not taken seriously." Since Manninen has dual Finnish and US citizenship, he is not subject to the current EU travel ban for US travelers.

Several colleagues have nicknamed Manninen the "Covid Devil". He was repeatedly told to stand outside or away from others, and at times he felt "poisonous."

“When I get home, I cannot hug my wife and I have to stay on the other side of the house,” he said.

The moment of truth for him came in New York, as he drove late at night in the rain next to a long line of ambulances with blaring sirens and flashing lights, "like a scene from a movie about the end of the world."

While his travel rituals have protected him to date, Manninen admits that he, too, is sometimes intimidated.

“It would be crazy not to be afraid,” he said.

Note. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns against travel, stating: "Since travel increases your chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19, staying at home is the best way to protect yourself and others from disease."

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