Minneapolis, Tiananmen Vigil, Israel: Your Tuesday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

Airlines and airports around the world are doing everything they can to instill confidence in travelers that it’s safe to get on a plane again. But these measures might not be enough. Melina asked Donald McNeil, our infectious diseases reporter, what he thinks.

It’s impossible to make a plane perfectly safe. It is an enclosed space full of strangers. It might as well be a flying subway car, a flying cocktail party or a flying choir practice. The biggest factor is luck: Did you get on one of the dozens of planes on any given day that are just fine? Or did you get on the plane that has a virus-spewing superspreader — who may not even be feeling sick — aboard? And is that superspreader sitting quietly in a mask in a back row? Or a flight attendant patrolling the aisles and lowering her mask to answer questions?

The airlines are doing what they can — aggressively sanitizing surfaces, cutting back on meals and sometimes taking temperatures. But you can’t control for bad luck. Yes, cabin air is filtered and the filters are impressive. But they are not as effective as an outdoor breeze.


Credit…Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

If everyone — no exceptions — stays masked at all times and there are many empty seats, flying should be fairly safe. The only surefire protection is a PAPR hood like those used in labs that work with lethal viruses. But those are expensive, hard to find and make you look like a cast member from “Contagion,” which might make your seatmates nervous.

Right now, airlines are not using many of their fleets. As they bring more planes into service, the seats will get more crowded, the cleaning crews will have to work faster and will get more careless. You can imagine the result.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina and Carole

Thank you
To Sam Sifton for the recipe and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about a weekend of intensifying protests across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd in police custody.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Minhaj who hosts Netflix’s “Patriot Act” (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Times correspondents covering race issues discuss the U.S. protests during our “America, Inflamed” event at 11 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday (11:00 p.m. in Hong Kong). You can email questions ahead of the event: questions@nytimes.com.

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