Friday, March 13, 2020
What is the coronavirus?
Also known as 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the coronavirus is a family of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of humans. It is commonly associated with the common cold and, more seriously, pneumonia. The respiratory illness was first detected in Wuhan, China.
What’s the risk level?
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers this a serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from the new coronavirus to the general American public is considered low at this time. (It’s important to keep in mind that the CDC estimates the current flu season, which started in October, has caused 15 to 21 million cases of flu in the United States, resulting in 200,000 hospitalizations and about 15,000 deaths).
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Similar to the common cold, symptoms can include:
Shortness of breath
How does the virus spread?
COVID-19 does not spread easily. According to the CDC, coronaviruses are most commonly spread by direct person-to-person contact, mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Can the virus be spread by touching objects, like bags and boarding passes?
Though possible, it’s unlikely. The virus is transmitted through person-to-person contact. Inanimate objects, such as bags, magazines, linens, cutlery and boarding passes do not pose a transmission concern.
What can I do to protect myself?
You should take normal precautions to protect yourself:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Avoid close personal contact with someone who is ill with fever and/or cough.
If you feel sick with cold-like symptoms, seek medical care and avoid contact with others.
Does wearing a mask help protect against the coronavirus?
According to the CDC, wearing a face mask will not protect someone from obtaining the coronavirus. Given its small size, the virus can easily pass through masks. It is also likely that wearing a mask may result in more frequent touching of the face, nose and eyes, so hands should be cleaned thoroughly before applying or touching masks. However, for someone who is ill, coughing, and sneezing, wearing a mask can help to prevent the spread of many viruses in respiratory droplets. While it is not medically recommended, Flight Attendants can wear masks on flights to and from our international destinations in the Asia Pacific region.
Does wearing disposable gloves help protect against COVID-19?
Not necessarily. If the glove touches a surface that is infected with COVID-19 and then your face, you could get the illness. One would need to wash their hands after removing the gloves to effectively protect against the virus.
While disposable gloves can help prevent the spread of infections if they are transmitted through open wounds in the skin, like Hepatitis B, that’s not the case for COVID-19.
Disposable gloves (Gloves do not replace proper handwashing).
Wear disposable gloves when:
- Tending to a sick traveler.
- Touching body fluids (such as blood, vomit, or diarrhea).
- Touching potentially contaminated surfaces, such as in bathrooms.
- Remove gloves carefully to avoid contaminating yourself or your clothing.
- Properly dispose soiled gloves in a biohazard bag (or plastic bag labeled biohazard if none).
- Do not reuse gloves.
After removing gloves, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
TO PROPERLY REMOVE GLOVES:
Protecting yourself and others
- Treat all body fluids (such as diarrhea, vomit, or blood) like they are infectious.
- Handwashing is the single most important infection control measure.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after assisting sick travelers or touching potentially contaminated body fluids or surfaces. Also, wash hands when visibly soiled.
- Use alcohol-based hand rub (containing at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose with unwashed or gloved hands.
Safety & Security
Attending Training During the COVID-19 Crisis
On March 6th, 2020, a communication went out from the Company to all Flight Attendants that provided an update on additional measures being taken protect and mitigate concerns surrounding the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19). Here is a listing of protections that have been implemented to date at the training centers. I am quite sure as this crisis worsens there may be additional precautions implemented and those will be evaluated daily.
While the previous communication mainly addressed the precautions to take onboard operational flight and the aircraft, APFA wants to let you know what steps have been put in place at Skyview 5 (FSU) to ensure a safe training environment.
What about (FSU) and the Training Academy?
We know there is anxiety and concern about attending training. The Company has put in place procedures and barriers to mitigate concerns about members safety while attending training.
Steps currently being taken at ALL training locations:
- Increased availability to hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, gloves, and masks throughout the trainers and training rooms and ensuring the disinfection prior to use.
- Providing gloves and masks for anyone wishing to use them.
- Increased cleaning frequency of trainers and training locations Daily and Overnight.
Remaining Healthy During Training with the Threat of COVID-19
Steps you can take to ensure you remain healthy:
- Frequently wash hands with warm soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid (M.E.N.) Mucous Membranes, Eyes, and Nose. That includes touching your eyes, nose, and mouth without washing your hands or using hand sanitizer.
- Wipe down tablets, work areas, and training devices before and after each use.
- Do not share drinks or food.
- Make sure to hydrate.
- Most importantly, if you don’t feel well, stay home. APFA has repeatedly demanded the suspension of any attendance points during this crisis. APFA will be filing notices of dispute for any punitive attendance points that may be assessed during this global pandemic.
Utilize Universal Precautions
We understand the concerns and anxiety regarding attending training during the era of COVID-19. The Company is taking appropriate steps to clean, disinfect, and to ensure a safe training environment for our crew members and trainees.
If you have any additional questions or concerns – please feel free to direct those inquires directly to your FSM Management or the Training Center.
APFA Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Coping with Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As we prepare nationally to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety about this health crisis. COVID-19 is not SARS, and it is not influenza. It is a new virus with its own characteristics. Disruptions to work, living situations, schools, and daily routines have added disruptions and additional strains and stressors to everyone. Psychological first aid has shown that people across the globe struggle to cope with their experiences of disasters and that this is a natural and normal reaction. A pandemic is an invisible disaster, yet its effects are just as real. Understanding how traumatic events affect us can help us to gain control over our lives again. So how should we respond when a pandemic happens? How do we stay centered? What is the best way to help children? How do you support other flight attendants around you?
To manage a pandemic situation, you need to understand common reactions and offer ways to deal with these concerns, while also maintaining a positive mental health outlook.
The most common reaction to a pandemic is hyper-vigilance – feeling overly cautious and wary about things such as a person coughing or not wearing a mask. These feelings can be exacerbated by the fear of contagion. Some people may experience headaches, muscle aches and stomach aches, and disruptions to their sleeping and eating patterns. Others may have trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, making decisions, or feel sad, overwhelmed, or angry. Others may withdraw and not want to discuss traumatic events. These are all normal reactions, and over time, as life gets back to normal, these feelings decrease. What we must remember is that fears about the coronavirus are understandable. New infectious diseases are scary. It is natural for employees to express fear over the coronavirus pandemic, including the fear that we are exposed to the virus in our workplace. It is particularly anxiety-inducing because of the incredible uncertainty of it. We are more afraid of what we don’t know.
A pandemic can be very frightening. It can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, helpless, and even depressed. If you already struggle with mental health symptoms or addiction, this is a dangerous time for you on many levels. Stress can trigger relapses of both. With coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading and panic setting in, it’s important to maintain perspective, learn the facts, take reasonable precautions, and take steps to manage your mental as well as your physical health. This doesn’t have to be a setback for your progress.
Be aware that fear and anxiety about a disease such as the coronavirus can also lead to social stigma towards people, places, or things. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease. People of Asian descent and Flight Attendants that travel to Europe and Asia may be at risk for this stigma, which may also occur after a person has been released from COVID-19 quarantine even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others. Be kind to one another, support one another.
The three primary strategies for coping with the emotional impact of a pandemic are:
- Education: Seek out reliable information. Keep updated by going to cdc.gov
- Preparation: Personal and family readiness. Focus on what you can control (wash hands, avoid touching face, wear latex gloves during all phases of flight)
- Understanding common reactions to a pandemic: Work disruptions; flight cancellations, commuting disrupted. Financial concerns. Personal and relationship challenges; pre-existing problems and previous losses may resurface. Possible confinement for a period.
- The recent events of COVD-19 have reminded all of us that we can’t control everything in our lives. But there are things we can do to help us manage the emotional impact. Taking control and managing stress is key. Learning stress reduction techniques such as meditation and deep breathing can be good for everyone. Adults can help their children and others by creating an environment of safety and maintaining structure and routines in their lives. Keeping a healthy diet, sleep routines, and exercise are all essential.
- Friends Make a Difference. Turn to them for support. Offer to listen to them, vent about concerns, and offer suggestions to help them through it. Allow your friends to do the same with you.
- If you know someone who has the virus or is elderly, reach out to them. Make some time to talk and check on how they are coping with the situation and the stressors in their lives. Watching out for others shows you care. It can be comforting and calming to both of you. If anyone in your family has a pre-existing condition, call them to make sure they are doing okay. Even if you need to stay at home, keep in touch with all the people you know – from school, from your faith community, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – by phone and email. Keeping your immune system happy and healthy is essential. A healthy immune system starts with a balanced diet and getting the amount of sleep you need to feel well-rested every night.
- Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
- Engaging in regular exercise is also essential.
- Limit your exposure to graphic news stories or images.
- Get accurate, timely information about the disease from credible sources.
- Seek out and follow the advice of experts.
- Keep your daily routines as normal as possible, such as meal and bedtimes.
- Stay busy, both mentally and physically.
Panic arises when people overestimate a threat and underestimate their coping abilities, “watching coverage that repeatedly emphasizes both the rapid spread of coronavirus and lack of effective treatment” is a fuel for anxiety. The best thing we can do is make sure to wash our hands and protect ourselves as we would with any other virus.
It’s also important to support the people who are most vulnerable to anxiety or victims of discrimination and to remember that, more than to panic, it’s human nature to come together in times of crisis.
Under crisis situations, people typically rally around one another and they support one another. Together we are powerful, together we are brave.
Temper fear with reason,
Panic with patience, and
Uncertainty with education
In Unity & Solidarity,
Cathy Sharp, APFA National Health Chair
Thomas Houdek, APFA National Safety & Security Chair
Abby Alconcher, APFA National EAP Specialist