On March 16th, the city of San Francisco was ordered to “shelter in place” effectively at midnight.
This came as a shock to many because this was the first time the United States took serious measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Originally, I was scheduled to return to Taiwan the following Monday, but having no idea what “essential travel” entailed at the time, I booked a flight the same day and left for Taiwan within 4 hours.
Contrary to what I expected, SFO was pretty quiet. The only airlines that had a lot of traffic were the ones flying to Asia. While waiting in line to check-in, you could see that people were vigilant – masks on, glasses worn, gloves on, and even for some, a full body suit.
The check-in process was simpler than what you’d think. I was simply asked about my travel history for the past 14 days, and if it didn’t include the major affected countries like China, Japan, Korea, or Italy – I wasn’t going to be scrutinized. The same applied to TSA.
Then came time to board the plane. This was the most intense moment because we’ve all been told or read about the precautions you should take:
- Disinfect the entire seat including the handles
- Sanitize your hands prior to touching anything
- Do NOT remove your mask at any point
- Do NOT use the bathroom, instead wear an adult diaper
- Sit one meter away from everybody
You’re probably wondering if I wore a diaper. Unfortunately, I did not. But here were things I did and observed:
- Everyone was in sync in pulling out Clorox to disinfect their space. This is where all the Clorox from Costco went if you’re wondering
- No matter what I touched – handles, tables, or the phone – I disinfected my hands with Purell after. My hands have never been so pale and dry in my life
- Masks were on 100% of the time for all
- I used the bathroom once, but used Clorox to touch everything
- It was a full flight, so tough luck
Upon arriving at TPE, the only difference were two things – your temperature was checked with a thermometer and you’re required to fill out a form stating your travel history for the past 14 days. Afterwards, my dad picked me up from the airport and we drove home.
I’m lucky that I made it back before SF locked down and Taiwan closed its borders to non-Taiwanese citizens. Many of my friends who’ve returned after are being monitored in their homes, and for my Chinese friends, many are sent to quarantine facilities.
With all the craziness out there – I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.