Doctor calls packed flight scarier than treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients

While people across the globe continue to physically distance as a means of stopping the spread of COVID-19, one United Airlines flight allegedly didn’t.

Dr. Ethan Weiss, a cardiologist flying from New Jersey to San Francisco on Saturday, posted a photo on Twitter showing the packed cabin, full of people wearing masks and gloves to protect themselves.

“I guess @united is relaxing their social distancing policy these days?” he wrote. “Every seat full on this 737.”

He followed up with another tweet with more details about the flight, writing that people on his flight were “scared” and “shocked,” and he had no idea why most of them were travelling, apart from the other 24 nurses and doctors he’d been working in New York City with.

Weiss shared a photo of an April 30 email he received from the airline, stating that they’d be ensuring physical distancing en route with middle seats left vacant for space. This didn’t happen, per Weiss’s photo.

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He added that he won’t be flying again for a long time.

A member of his 25-person volunteer group, trauma surgeon Dr. Rebecca Plevin, also tweeted about this incident, writing: “Hey @United: I appreciate you getting us home from New York, but I’d prefer there to be some level of #socialdistancing.”

The airline has since responded to the backlash, telling ABC News that the flight was only 85 per cent full with 22 seats left empty. Most of its flights, they added, have been 50 per cent full.

United Airlines isn’t the only airline claiming to enforce physical distancing during flights.

On Monday, a Twitter user shared a photo of a packed flight from New York City to Washington, D.C. The person tagged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to point out that there was “no social distancing.”

Much like United Airlines, however, an American Airlines spokesperson said the photo doesn’t show the 25 unoccupied seats, and told NBC News that the flight wasn’t at full capacity.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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