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Around the world during a pandemic

Somebody asked me, "What is it like seeing the way the pandemic is being handled around the world, and what was it like working through it?" If you're living in the United States (or viewing it on the news from elsewhere,) then you know the chaos and fear that has been created around it. When the Covid-19 cases spiked in the US, I was still in New York, working.


March 5th, I came to work assuming not much would be different. I was already receiving regular, "Covid updates," from my job, but operations seemed fairly normal. I worked JFK-ZRH (Zürich, Switzerland) as normal. When arriving at the hotel, we were given a "Welcome brief," that essentially just re-instated that the hotel was taking safety precautions to ensure everything was properly sanitized and clean.


That evening I had dinner with two crew members, before I went off on my own adventures (a story for another day!) I ended up at a concert (lol!) and I went to a bar that required everyone to sign in and leave their contact information. This was my first encounter and realization of the severity of the virus. Thus far, in the US we had only talked about the fears of the virus, but no action had been taken. I was also told that at this point, all non-essential employees with the possibility of working from home, were required to do so in Switzerland.


I returned to the US, by March 9th, I was back on a plane, this time headed to Frankfurt, Germany. The best part of this trip? I got to be a part of my cousin's first international excursion.

We spent the day in Mainz, and didn't experience any covid noticeable restrictions. We returned back to the US, March 11th.


March 12th, I worked JFK-ZRH again. A few hours after arriving in Zürich (on Friday the 13th!), we received notification that President Trump would be shutting down international borders at 12:00am. I was definitely hoping we'd get stuck in Zürich, because if you know me, you know I always want to be somewhere else. It probably helped that I thought I met my future husband too (also another story.)


Sadly, I didn't get stuck, didn't get married, and by March 14th, I was back in "shutdown" USA, in the epicenter. The fear factor had spread like wildfire in the US, people were flying everywhere to get away, flight attendants were dropping trips, no one had solid answers on what was really happening. Perhaps it was because I had an outside perspective on how the virus was being handled, but for whatever reason I wasn't stirred by the chaos. I also (at this point) did not know anyone personally who had tested positive for the virus. I had the next three days off, but as a junior flight attendant, I took this opportunity to scour our swap board (a platform used by FAs to swap or drop trips,) for trips I wouldn't usually get with my low seniority.


I talked to my mother after my Zürich trip, I told her, "Don't worry mom, I'm off the rest of the month, I don't need to work or be anywhere." Well... 12hrs later I sent her a selfie video from Ghana (Sorry, I know it's rough being my mom.) March 15th, the world was panicking, and here I was over the moon to be going back to the motherland.

The day I arrived in Accra, was apparently the day the city started implementing restrictions. At that time there were only a few cases in the entire country. Although the cases were low, I was impressed with Ghana's preventive measures. The hotel had shut down their gym, spa, and limited their breakfast buffet. Every person entering the hotel was required to use sanitizer and receive a temperature check. Obviously this has become a common "Covid protocol," now, but at the time this wasn't normal to see. Additionally, most grocery stores or highly frequented shops had an employee opening doors, and another handing out gloves and sanitizer to every customer. I felt 101x safer in Accra, than any city in the US. It seemed completely bizarre that New York City was on complete lockdown, while at the same time I was laying by the pool in Accra, trying soursop for the first time.

I arrived back in JFK the morning of March 18th, but by March 19th, I was on my way back to Accra. While I was still able to move about the city, most of their events had been cancelled by now.


Things were steadily becoming worse in the US. In fact, a few hours before our departure from ACC on March 21st, New York shut it's air space down. Supposedly an air traffic controller tested positive and they were short staffed. Once again, I hoped we'd get stuck in Accra... and once again we did not. However, a few hours into our flight we received notification that we were unable to land in JFK, and would be diverted to San Juan, Puerto Rico. We arrived in SJU to fuel, and then continued our diversion to Miami.


The weeks to follow were extremely chaotic. As an aviation employee, everything was unpredictable. I was assigned one day trips that turned into three day trips. Ninety-percent of my original schedule was cancelled, and of course all international trips were gone. It was a serious scramble to find hours, and most of the trips were low credit domestic trips, multiple flights a day and lots of exposure to people. I chose to go on leave May and June, I came back in July, worked ONE trip to Florida and decided to continue on leave.


Throughout my leave I visited St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom. Aside from UK, (London to be specific, they just always want to party ha!), I felt that restrictions and precautions were thoroughly being met. Overall, it felt like common sense was present (surprise!) People respected rules (masks, sanitizer and social distance), didn't go out of their way to break them nor carry this, "You can't tell me what to do," attitude. Overall, and this is of course solely my own opinions based on my own observations, it feels that coming from the US, there is an implemented (politically supported) fear. While in Germany, I noticed that even the news were different. They reported updates on the virus, and then continued with regular worldly news, they maintained normalcy. While in the US, it feels like you can't see anything BUT Covid-19 related topics.


My intent isn't to deter you from being safe, or feel like anything is untrue. I wanted to share my observations of how different countries are handling a pandemic. My best advice? If you really want to feel safe, go to Accra.

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