One Cough At A Time: Sick Travelers Galore!

One Cough At A Time: Sick Travelers Galore!

144

I’ve been flying (nearly) nonstop for around four days now. Since leaving the United States, I’ve visited six countries. You know what they all had in common, and what has stood out to me more than anything? I’m hearing people cough to an extent I’ve never witnessed before.

There’s no need for ambient music in airports, or boarding music on planes, because people are providing all the background noise we need in terms of coughing. Heck, at this point people don’t even need to use headphones on planes as far as I’m concerned, because the coughing drowns it all out. 😉

I’ve never heard so much coughing in my life

Obviously this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Between coronavirus spiking, the flu, RSV, and all kinds of other stuff going around, a lot of people seem to be sick at the moment. It’s hard to know based on the data how bad things actually are, since we’re not testing to the same extent as in the past.

I’m curious whether I’ve just had really bad luck, or if other OMAAT readers who are traveling are noticing this as well. It’s not just that I’m hearing people with the sniffles, or with the occasional sneeze. Rather I feel like I’m surrounded by people who are coughing multiple times per minute for hours on end.

On literally every single flight I’ve taken, there have been multiple people within earshot with a very loud, dry cough, multiple times per minute. And it’s not just for a few minutes, but rather for the entire flight. In some cases it has been someone seated at the opposite end of business class, while in other cases it has been the person seated across from me, or the person next to me in an immigration line.

At Bahrain Airport, for example, there was basically a chorus of people constantly coughing throughout the terminal. I’ve traveled a lot over the years, but I’ve never, ever witnessed anything to this extent before.

On a redeye flight I took last night, there was someone at the other end of business class who must have coughed every 20-30 seconds for the entire flight. I feel bad for the people who were seated even closer to him.

I’ve been hearing an unreal amount of coughing

Here’s to hoping that I avoid getting sick…

My intent here isn’t to virtue signal, or to create panic, or to suggest the world should lock down again. Rather it’s to point out that this is the thing that has stood out to me more than anything this entire trip, and I’m curious if others traveling right now are noticing a similar trend.

There’s no denying that many of us are just generally more aware of sick people around us. The pandemic has changed the way many of us perceive health. I feel like before coronavirus, people would be like “I’m sick, but I’ll power through it and come to dinner.” Meanwhile now… not so much. As a massive introvert, I can’t say I minded the concept of “social distancing” (I’m talking about actual social distancing, not physical distancing). 😉

I’ve gone this long without getting coronavirus, and I’m hoping to keep it that way. It’s not just about my health, but I don’t want to get our infant son sick, and I don’t want to get any of the more at-risk older people in our life sick. Heck, I don’t want to get sick either — even a cold isn’t fun, and I have more travel planned next week, which I really don’t want to cancel. And unlike so many others, I have no plans to travel if I need to cough every five seconds.

For the past couple of years I’ve been adjusting my precaution based on the epidemiological situation at the time, as well as my surroundings. Suffice it to say that this is a trip where I’ve been masking a lot. Heck, for the first time ever, I even double masked, while standing in an immigration line next to a guy who couldn’t stop coughing (and even though masks were required, he took off his mask every time he needed to cough — oy!).

So during this trip I’ve been masking at airports, while onboard it depends on the situation. I try to wear a mask during boarding and deplaning, or if I’m seated near someone. Meanwhile if I’m trying to sleep and I have a significant amount of distance from the next person, I take it off.

At least Apex Suites provide some privacy!

Bottom line

According to my unofficial Dr. OMAAT assessment, I feel like coronavirus and the flu are out there among travelers to a level I certainly haven’t seen before.

It’s a bit unusual when the most memorable thing about a trip is just how many people are sick, but that’s exactly what I’m noticing right now (and there has been no shortage of other interesting things this trip!). I’m not surprised, ultimately, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this obvious.

Is it just me? Is anyone else traveling, and noticing an uncharacteristically high number of people who are sick?

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  1. Mary Guest

    I flew from CPT to EWR (nearly 16 hr flight) and the passenger seated directly behind me coughed frequently/intermittently the entire flight. It was quite noticeable. Clearly she was sick/recovering from being sick and/or had some sort of chronic pulmonary condition such as asthma. It was disconcerting. The worst thing was she ended up in the row in front of me on my connecting flight. And yes, the coughing continued. The lady seated next to...

    I flew from CPT to EWR (nearly 16 hr flight) and the passenger seated directly behind me coughed frequently/intermittently the entire flight. It was quite noticeable. Clearly she was sick/recovering from being sick and/or had some sort of chronic pulmonary condition such as asthma. It was disconcerting. The worst thing was she ended up in the row in front of me on my connecting flight. And yes, the coughing continued. The lady seated next to me looked at me pointedly when the coughing started as if to say WTH? I didn't notice a mask on the long flight but on the short connecting flight at least the cougher had a mask on.

  2. Neil Millikin Guest

    Caught COVID in November, fever and a dry hacking cough for a few days. Tested positive .... stayed home throughout.

    Two weeks later it came back (or so I thought), tested negative. Eventually turned into a bad cold, lingering dry cough for around a month. Tested negative on a regular schedule throughout.

    All traveling venues were as you describe. I suspect we all lost our normal immunities by staying isolated for almost two years.

    This too should pass.

  3. Sheila Bouffard Guest

    Agreed! I just got back from a month traveling through Austria, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. I didn’t start out wearing a mask on my trip except during boarding and deplaning my first flight, but there were SO many people coughing in the airports, on the flights, at museums, on busses, etc. that I ended up wearing a mask anywhere in public for the rest of my trip. I don’t mean just normal coughing…all these...

    Agreed! I just got back from a month traveling through Austria, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. I didn’t start out wearing a mask on my trip except during boarding and deplaning my first flight, but there were SO many people coughing in the airports, on the flights, at museums, on busses, etc. that I ended up wearing a mask anywhere in public for the rest of my trip. I don’t mean just normal coughing…all these people were coughing and coughing, and it sounded really bad. I’ve been vaccinated 4 times and still got Covid and Covid pneumonia, so no thanks…I’ll just wear a mask and stay as far away from everyone as I can. Stay healthy everyone!

  4. iamhere Guest

    There are many reasons people who are sick may have to fly, though. Easy to say that they should just stay home from those that never had to experience this, but I do agree coughing everywhere is a bit much. One or two people may be different.

  5. FlyerDon New Member

    Not that it would matter to you but China developed their own vaccine and experts have reported it is not very affective. The USA offered to send millions of doses to China and China turned them down.

  6. Yisrael New Member

    There is rampant bronchitis in Israel - exactly the cough that you describe. People are on antibiotics but the cough remains.

  7. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

    We all know business class doors keeps out all diseases, so just fly Q-suite people!

  8. David Guest

    Morning flight from AKL to SYD had a lot of coughing. There was a person in particular in business class that had just come off a cruise that seemed to be coughing pretty constantly.

    Afternoon flight to PER so far seems better. Still am masking when boarding and deplaning as I have for all my flights the past 6 months.

  9. Icarus Guest

    A larger number of unvaccinated died.
    You still don’t get it.
    I suppose you abstained from having any other vaccinations.

  10. Samo Guest

    I don't recall hearing any coughing during my recent travels. But it's the season of respiratory viruses, so it's not too surprising if there are many people who do cough on certain flights.

    Chill and get over it. It's been like this for centuries.

    1. David Diamond

      Have you considered that people don't enjoy getting respiratory sickness, or just sickness in general, especially when they're travelling?

  11. SL65 Guest

    I'm sitting on an Alaska flight as I type this. This is our 4th flight in 3 days (Seattle to Vegas to Dallas to DC and back to Seattle). You are 100% spot on about the coughing, but we've noticed the sneezing around us is just as bad. It is awful at the moment, we have masked up again as a result while flying and at airports. And for the love of God people sneeze...

    I'm sitting on an Alaska flight as I type this. This is our 4th flight in 3 days (Seattle to Vegas to Dallas to DC and back to Seattle). You are 100% spot on about the coughing, but we've noticed the sneezing around us is just as bad. It is awful at the moment, we have masked up again as a result while flying and at airports. And for the love of God people sneeze without making an effort to catch it with a sleeve or tissue, and coughing without raising a hand or making any effort to cover it. It has kinda put us off wanting to fly again anytime soon. Last thing any of us want is to go back to covid ways, so if people are coughing or sneezing the least they can do is wear a mask and make an effort not to splutter all over the plane. But what I've learnt is most people just don't seem to give a f so it is what it is.

  12. glenn t Diamond

    Ah, still the same ol' Robbo.......

  13. Chloe Guest

    We just returned from two weeks in Europe and our running joke the whole trip was how literally every single person in Europe has a cough right now

    1. Icarus Guest

      We don’t. I’ve not noticed anything more than usual.

      Check out all the Americans, of which I assume you’re one, given the fact they constantly have to say “ literally, basically or like”.

  14. Francesca Guest

    Soooo many coughs on my flights these past couple of weeks.

  15. JoePro Guest

    "And unlike so many others, I have no plans to travel if I need to cough every five seconds." --- I mean, your whole life is travel, and you have the means and ability to adjust around any short-term sickness you accrue.
    Most people do indeed just have to power through, or forgo the precious little travel time they're entitled to each year. Not to mention sacrificing $$$$ that they spent on their trips.

  16. Stuart Guest

    Sorry, But you really come across as a Primadonna with this post. Either toughen up and travel, accepting the risks and the fact that we either live with this or we don't, or just stay home. It's simple. But to whine during winter about people coughing on planes is really a stretch. This was not your best look. We all have our moments, me included, this was yours.

    1. GBOAC Diamond

      I think this condescending comment of yours is one "moments"

    2. Ben Guest

      You know with some practice you may actually develop the skill of reading comprehension. Kepp at it, Stewie!

  17. Randy Diamond

    Did cross country to SEA this weekend. No one coughing on the plane. US flights seem pretty stable, and I am only seeing a few people (me included) wearing masks. Maybe 5 years ago (pre-Covid) seems like there would be someone coughing on a flight - pre-masks.

  18. Kanaka Gold

    I was on a Hawaiian Airlines flight last week and for nearly six hours half the people seated across the aisle from me and the rows behind me were couighing non stop the entire flight. I know people are selfish and will still travel for a vacation even if they have a cough/flu/Covid, but I can't believe that they don't take any medication to at the very least contain the cough. They didn't even cover...

    I was on a Hawaiian Airlines flight last week and for nearly six hours half the people seated across the aisle from me and the rows behind me were couighing non stop the entire flight. I know people are selfish and will still travel for a vacation even if they have a cough/flu/Covid, but I can't believe that they don't take any medication to at the very least contain the cough. They didn't even cover their mouths while coughing. I seriously considered offering them cough drops or medication, but they seemed like they might get offended and I didn't want things to turn ugly. I wore a N94 mask the entire time. I have no interest in debating whether or not these are effective in preventing catching a cold/flu, but I did get lucky in that I didn't catch anything on that flight.

  19. Alan Guest

    If you're symptomatic, wear a mask to protect others. However a normal surgical mask (or two of them, Ben!) isn't a great protection for yourself. For that you need a proper FFP3 mask but it you need to be fit-tested for it too to make sure you have the right one for your face. That's what we have at work, I've seen lots of people wearing higher grade masks incorrectly which will do nothing!

    1. Samo Guest

      There are mask with a valve that protect the wearer, not people around them. Anyone who is naive enough to believe they can live their life without ever catching COVID should wear one and then they don't need to worry about people around them :)

    2. Sheila Bouffard Guest

      Yes, and I love it when I see people wearing their masks pulled down under their chins in crowded places! Sure…that will help!

  20. Olivia Guest

    Mask up people, especially those sick ones. Quit being so selfish. Covid or not, nobody wants to catch what you have, especially Covid. I had to wear mask almost 24 hours since arriving at the airport for departure until when I picked up my rental car. It's very uncomfortable but I'm healthy because of that.

  21. frrp Gold

    No, everyone still thinks antivaxers are dumb.

  22. Points and Miles Doc Guest

    Never stopped masking in airports/planes and I always carry an N95 with me in case I'm near someone who is clearly sick. As a surgeon I wear a mask at work every day, so I'm not about to get sick on my vacation. I think the increase in coughing reflects the sad truth that at first people did stay home when they were sick, and now they don't (and COVID, flu, RSV, and metapneumovirus are all going around, which causes the constant hacking well beyond a common cold)

  23. Amber Guest

    Flew 4 flights since November and yes, there's been a LOT of coughing. The last leg we took was significant because there's WASN'T someone nearby coughing their heads off. The worst was a whole row or a family OPEN coughing the whole flight, zero attempt at trying to cover up. What is wrong with people! We have always and still mask the whole time we're traveling. If these idiots can't even cover their mouths when they cough, I clearly need to extra protect myself.

  24. Mary Guest

    I've been flying quite a lot in there past 2 months (Asia, Europe & US) and haven't noticed this at all.

  25. Michael Guest

    No I observed the same thing this weekend it's good to know I'm not the only one noticing the amount of sick people wandering around all the airports. I've never seen this much coughing in my life on public transportation. I mask 99% of the time unless I am about to drink or eat something in the airport. I usually find a place away from everyone to eat or drink my food. The amount of...

    No I observed the same thing this weekend it's good to know I'm not the only one noticing the amount of sick people wandering around all the airports. I've never seen this much coughing in my life on public transportation. I mask 99% of the time unless I am about to drink or eat something in the airport. I usually find a place away from everyone to eat or drink my food. The amount of sick people I saw this past weekend was at an epidemic level. Stay safe out there and I strongly recommend wearing a mask to anyone that's doing air travel.

  26. Michael NC Guest

    I am 78. I Was a big traveler before Covid. Stopped 2 years ago. I have a dive trip to Grenada planned for 2/15. I am Seriously rethinking it. Thanks for a very interesting and informative site

    1. Maryland Guest

      Best fishes for your trip. Hey you're used to masks, protect self and marshall on!

    2. FlyerDon New Member

      Try not to cough when you are underwater. We don’t want the fish to get sick.

  27. Melanie Williams Galuten Guest

    Ick. and yes. Same here on trip LA-Tokyo. BUT the worst was Shinkansen to/from Kyoto. The Kyoto-Tokyo was so bad we asked to be moved. The guy next to us had no mask, bare feet and was coughing up stuff and SWALLOWING it after. Unreal. Welcome to the new normal. p.s. luckily haven't gotten covid yet and thankful!

  28. echino Gold

    Yeah, I noticed a lot of people coughing. I am not masking, I believe that exposure is a good thing for me, training my immune system, between this, vaccinations and past infections.

  29. Leila Guest

    I flew SLC-DEN return last week for a 24hr trip and there were a lot of people coughing and unmasked. As I was waiting for my flight home, the guy sitting across from me at the gate totally coughed without covering his mouth in any fashion. At that point, I hadn’t masked up yet as I was drinking water and snacking a bit, but quickly pulled out my mask and put it on at that...

    I flew SLC-DEN return last week for a 24hr trip and there were a lot of people coughing and unmasked. As I was waiting for my flight home, the guy sitting across from me at the gate totally coughed without covering his mouth in any fashion. At that point, I hadn’t masked up yet as I was drinking water and snacking a bit, but quickly pulled out my mask and put it on at that point. While giving the guy a stink eye. Who coughs in public without covering their mouth in some way?!?! Especially in these times!!!

    After catching COVID for the first time ever on our flights home the week after Thanksgiving thanks to our unmasked sick aisle seat mate, I’m back to masking up at the airport and on flights. Not worth the risk of even catching a minor cold.

  30. Bob Guest

    My theory is that
    1. It is flu season and unlike the last 2 years people are catching the flu.
    2. We are more aware when we hear coughing and sneezing since the pandemic
    3. Fewer of us are wearing masks so the sounds of coughing is less muffled.

  31. Californiadreamer Guest

    Best way to combat others coughs and sneezes is to wear a simple KN95 or N95 mask. Easy-peasy.

  32. AVGeekHNL Member

    Recently I flew HNL-SEA and SEA-HNL - in both directions, there were people on the plane coughing. Cougher were not wearing masks. I don't know if this is just the flu season and it used to be like this pre-Covid. Maybe we are more observant now. Either way, I wear a mask.

  33. GTC Guest

    We noticed the same thing! Back from Germany/Spain/Belgium. Many flights. Everyone seems sick everywhere! Love the no hand over your mouth when you cough in public! People are all about themselves these days on a level I have never seen. ME ME ME ME! Ah the double mask! Key for one's personal arsenal!

  34. Bill Guest

    I traveled internationally at TG and domestically XMAS. Few masks at TG. Many more masks at XMAS??????

  35. Srini Rao Guest

    Travel in Asia especially India and you hear people coughing a lot. I think it's partly due to the pollution.. It's also the time of the year where people catch colds. Due to the population density and less personal space in these places is inevitable to catch a cold or worse. I keep my mask on where possible.

  36. Robert Schrader Guest

    One of the biggest disappointments (and revelations) of the covid era is realizing how many "travelers" are actually hypochondriacs (and authoritarians). Afraid to breathe the air; ambivalent about freedom of movement. It's a wonder some of you are able to leave your homes at all!

    1. Srini Rao Guest

      It's very easy to catch a cold or worse when traveling. You seem clueless calling people hypochondriacs.

    2. walester Member

      During my peak flying years starting in the early 90s (long before Covid), I traveled for work to developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I would invariably get sick after deplaning - a real challenge for work and for dealing with illness in a foreign country, usually with poor health infrastructure.

      Determined to do something about this, I imitated a protocol I had seen on many of my flights to Asia -...

      During my peak flying years starting in the early 90s (long before Covid), I traveled for work to developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I would invariably get sick after deplaning - a real challenge for work and for dealing with illness in a foreign country, usually with poor health infrastructure.

      Determined to do something about this, I imitated a protocol I had seen on many of my flights to Asia - wearing a mask while on an airplane. In Hong Kong, I bought masks (readily available then) and used them religiously on these long-haul flights. Guess what? I stopped getting sick.

      I might have been a hypochondriac, but seeing how I made this life change AFTER being sick so many times, I think I was more of a realist and, for an American, a bit of an innovator. Sure, lots of folks stared at me back then, but I didn't care. The protocol worked, and I finally got to enjoy what was a really fulfilling job.

  37. MoreSun Guest

    Like that when I traveled before Thanksgiving in the US on 4/4 flights. My fam of 4 ended up with 3/4 sick within 2 days of us all getting home.

  38. Andy 11235 Guest

    Honestly, haven't noticed much difference recently. However, I also question what you expect. Most (all?) airlines and hotels have reinstated more normal cancelation policies, so it's not as though people really have the choice to stay home if they get a cold, RSV, COVID, whatever, and aren't bed-ridden. For a brief time during the pandemic, restrictions were sufficiently tight that a cough would get you denied boarding. Now, it's just back to normal. In a...

    Honestly, haven't noticed much difference recently. However, I also question what you expect. Most (all?) airlines and hotels have reinstated more normal cancelation policies, so it's not as though people really have the choice to stay home if they get a cold, RSV, COVID, whatever, and aren't bed-ridden. For a brief time during the pandemic, restrictions were sufficiently tight that a cough would get you denied boarding. Now, it's just back to normal. In a room of 100 people, at least a few will be battling a respiratory virus of some kind.

    1. Richard Guest

      No choice?
      Being in jail after conviction is not a choice.
      Cancelling a trip always remains a choice, albeit with possible penalties .

  39. Chi Hsuan Guest

    I don't know what it was, but a few days before Christmas I came down with a cold that gave me a horrible sore throat, chest congestion, and a lingering cough that is only now finally going away. Whatever it was, it was WAY worse than Covid, which for me lasted for only three days.

  40. MH Guest

    Yup, just took a trip to Australia in Qantas business class over New Year's, and felt surrounded by sick people both directions. My entire family came home with COVID - first time for all of us. It's going to be a rough winter.

  41. Niko Guest

    I’ve same experience from my travels around xmas and new year. I even had one long haul flight for which my upgrade plan failed. Many people around me were coughing and family behind me was the worst. Non stop sneezing and coughing and not even putting hand or anything in front so few times I felt particles hitting me. Now I start to understand why those Asians used Full body protective suit at beginning of...

    I’ve same experience from my travels around xmas and new year. I even had one long haul flight for which my upgrade plan failed. Many people around me were coughing and family behind me was the worst. Non stop sneezing and coughing and not even putting hand or anything in front so few times I felt particles hitting me. Now I start to understand why those Asians used Full body protective suit at beginning of the epidemic.

    I’ve travelled while sick few times in the past but sure I’ve made sure that I’ve no visible symptoms. Maybe few times going to toilet for coughing and sneezing. And not to prevent others getting sick but not to them feel uncomfortable.

  42. Andrew Diamond

    Flew domestic first SFO -> LAX this morning. Person sitting next to me was coughing a storm, hard-hitting Ricolas with no mask. It makes me sad that people don't take a small step to protect others when it is very, very clear that they are sick.

  43. Ella Guest

    I was in Northern Europe and came home in mid December. My last few days, in Iceland, I noticed a bunch of people coughing. The morning after I got home I had symptoms and tested positive, so that shot the next week. Even worse than the people coughing on the plane, I traveled (unknowingly) while highly contagious. I was up front and masked a bunch but not while eating, drinking or sleeping. The new variant...

    I was in Northern Europe and came home in mid December. My last few days, in Iceland, I noticed a bunch of people coughing. The morning after I got home I had symptoms and tested positive, so that shot the next week. Even worse than the people coughing on the plane, I traveled (unknowingly) while highly contagious. I was up front and masked a bunch but not while eating, drinking or sleeping. The new variant is crazy contagious, so we may be back to Wild West time out there. Stay safe, Ben.

  44. JulesM Guest

    Yes! Just came back from ORD IST (RT) and every couple of seats there were coughers! The airport also had coughing everywhere. Most people do not wear masks even though you can tell they are ill. Never caught anything going out but all family got a hacking cold cough within a day of arriving back in US

  45. Mike B Guest

    It might be a little bit dated, but on Christmas Eve I flew in business back from Australia to the US and did one domestic leg to get home, and I was pleasantly surprised how little coughing I noticed! Maybe I was just lucky, or maybe things have gotten worse since then.

  46. GBOAC Diamond

    I find this thread to be both amusing and depressing at the same time. Ben reports that he's seen something noticeably different in his recent travels, and a significant majority of commenters report the same as well. On the other hand a few commenters insist that nothing has changed or if it has, there is nothing to worry about.
    Does this behavior sound familiar? have we seen this type of reaction exhibited elsewhere:-)

  47. Vinay Guest

    Young, healthy people being scared to catch a cold and double masking in public is exactly the wrong approach to take. The reason there is such a surge in other non-covid respiratory viruses (particularly in kids) is that we have lost a significant amount of immunity over the last 3 years by avoiding each other. Assuming Ben is correct and there are far greater numbers of ill travelers on planes, it is not surprising at...

    Young, healthy people being scared to catch a cold and double masking in public is exactly the wrong approach to take. The reason there is such a surge in other non-covid respiratory viruses (particularly in kids) is that we have lost a significant amount of immunity over the last 3 years by avoiding each other. Assuming Ben is correct and there are far greater numbers of ill travelers on planes, it is not surprising at all to me.

    Catching colds is like working out for your immune system. It's healthy in the long run for MOST people (I understand the caveats of elderly, immunocompromised, etc). This is where our public health system failed so miserably in COVID response. Treating a 22 year old healthy young man the exact same way as a frail 90 yo (regarding both lockdowns and vaccine mandates) makes no sense at all.

    1. kuma Member

      Okay, I am not a professional so I don't really know if catching cold from time to time is good for the humanity in the long run.

      But I am young and healthy (so far). And you know what? I don't enjoy catching cold. Since COVID people where I live has pretty much entirely masked up, and I noticed I don't fall sick as often as I did in the previous years. Maybe they are...

      Okay, I am not a professional so I don't really know if catching cold from time to time is good for the humanity in the long run.

      But I am young and healthy (so far). And you know what? I don't enjoy catching cold. Since COVID people where I live has pretty much entirely masked up, and I noticed I don't fall sick as often as I did in the previous years. Maybe they are not related, but in the end my personal experience of not catching cold for almost 3 straight years has been great.

      "Catching colds is like working out for your immune system." Also, I think I've heard of this concept somewhere. Giving the body a virus to train the body for future defense, hmm, why does this sound so familiar?

    2. Robert Schrader Guest

      You might not "enjoy" catching a cold, but you are not entitled to breathe pathogen-free air. If that's what you want, buy an air purifier and stay within the walls of your own home.

    3. kuma Member

      Oh, no, I certainly am not entitled. I am grateful people have had and continue to be nice to each other.

  48. Leslie Guest

    I was in a half-full business section last month and elected not to mask. One person a few rows behind me coughed throughout the 10 hr flight. Three days later I had covid for the first time. I’ll be masking on all flights for at least the next year.

    1. Vinay Guest

      I love how so many people can confidently trace their covid inoculation to a single individual. The guy coughing on your flight could have had mild CHF, COPD from smoking his whole life, post nasal drip, severe acid reflux, or neurogenic cough to name a few out of hundreds of diagnoses in the differential list. But no - he is DEFINITELY the reason I got covid!

    2. askmrlee Guest

      I masked on my flight to/from the holidays (West to Midwest in the US). Wore a mask on both flights, but not at my destination where I visited indoor malls, trampoline parks, restaurants, bar, etc. My phone pinged with the exposure notification and told me I was exposed the day before or the day of travel on my return. I tested positive for Covid 3 days after developing very mild symptoms. It's tough to say...

      I masked on my flight to/from the holidays (West to Midwest in the US). Wore a mask on both flights, but not at my destination where I visited indoor malls, trampoline parks, restaurants, bar, etc. My phone pinged with the exposure notification and told me I was exposed the day before or the day of travel on my return. I tested positive for Covid 3 days after developing very mild symptoms. It's tough to say it came from the plane in your case as it could be anywhere - airport, your destination, etc.

    3. Samo Guest

      What's the point of masking for the next year if you've just had COVID? In my personal experience, it takes at least 12 months to get it again - I've had no reinfection during that time, even during peak covid periods and despite being socially very active and visiting crowded places in a country with no masking. First infection in November 2020, second in December 2021 and I'm still waiting for my third (unless I've had it asymptomatic).

  49. John Smith Guest

    Very good and true post. This is why we need to teach civics in school. Also, could we please have an update on your cute dog.

  50. Alan Guest

    I just travelled DUB-PHL-DFW-COS last week and noticed this exact same thing. Within a couple of seats of me on every flight were multiple people constantly hacking up lungs. I had escaped COVID for three years until I flew to DUB last month, and I'm convinced it happened during my travel. If only there was an easy way people who are sick could prevent passing along their illnesses…

  51. tim k Guest

    I've flown 67,000 miles since Dec 18 2022.

    Purposely avoided any Europe flights, and instead had several trips thru Asia and North America.

    Coughing and illness seemed very low (Asia, specifically Japan and Thailand are almost 100% masked, even solo scooter drivers on the street).

    except for two notable exceptions:

    only place in Asia that no longer required masks was Cambodia, Siem Reap. Guess what flight had numerous uncontrollable coughs the whole time?...

    I've flown 67,000 miles since Dec 18 2022.

    Purposely avoided any Europe flights, and instead had several trips thru Asia and North America.

    Coughing and illness seemed very low (Asia, specifically Japan and Thailand are almost 100% masked, even solo scooter drivers on the street).

    except for two notable exceptions:

    only place in Asia that no longer required masks was Cambodia, Siem Reap. Guess what flight had numerous uncontrollable coughs the whole time? Our 90min REP-DMK.

    In Canada, the Vancouver boarding gate also sounded like a Covid ward.

    Airlines aren't letting passengers delay trips for respiratory symptoms, so this will continue for many months.

  52. Max M Guest

    Just returned from a combined plane & train trip here in Europe. Many many people were sick, most coughing quite often. For professional reasons I had to travel while masked and am happy that I did!

  53. Ivan X Guest

    People are disgusting and that is why I am looking forward to traveling in Meta's VR in the future.

    1. Frank B Gold

      I like having legs when I travel, so that's a pass for me.

  54. DavidW Guest

    Wearing a mask is no big deal. This isn't about politics or staying home forever if concerned about getting sick. It's about simple human decency. If you are sick, please take precautions to not spread it to others. Cover when you cough and, ideally, wear a mask Simple as that.

    1. Frank B Gold

      I like having legs when I travel, so that's a pass for me.

    2. DavidW Guest

      I do not understand what you mean with this comment.

  55. Maryland Guest

    Hygiene. Brush teeth. Take shower. Cover cuts. (And either get meds, stay home or cover face when coughing). When did the concept of hygiene become controversial?

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      Since radical rightwing nutcases decided that science isn’t real.

    2. Frank B Gold

      Sorry meant for the comment above.

    3. kuma Member

      It is really sad there such a large population joining the "do-nothing" bandwagon.

      Sure. Criticize the ineffectiveness of (insert any hygiene practice here) all you want. But if you want to help, one needs to find a better solution, not making funny arguments like "if it doesn't work 100%, it is useless."

      As far as I can tell the only solution they have is to pretend that nothing is happening.

  56. Wei Guest

    I got my first Covid on my flight back JFK to LAX a week ago. The guy sit beside me on flagship business class coughed a lot. I got warning message from Iphone about Covid Exposure serval days later specifying this exact time. I had to cancel my CES visit and I am still recovering.

  57. Donna Diamond

    Clearly, you haven’t been on international travel in a while. I first noticed the abundance of noticeably sick people back in late September in both Italy and France, ditto for October and early December throughout Southern EU. Now that the masks are off, it’s a bit more nerve wracking. It’s in taxis, trains, airports, planes and even hotel elevators. The common expression from the coughing crowd, “it’s only a cold.” How do they know??!! I...

    Clearly, you haven’t been on international travel in a while. I first noticed the abundance of noticeably sick people back in late September in both Italy and France, ditto for October and early December throughout Southern EU. Now that the masks are off, it’s a bit more nerve wracking. It’s in taxis, trains, airports, planes and even hotel elevators. The common expression from the coughing crowd, “it’s only a cold.” How do they know??!! I contracted Omicron in October in Venice, Italy after being in country for a week. I knew it was inevitable given the situation at the time. Good News, it was asymptomatic. Use a mask.

  58. mjonis Guest

    JFK on 12/31. I wore my N95 mask. Lots of hacking/coughing at the airport. Get on the plane (Mint on JetBlue) and the lady behind me is hacking up lung cookies and sounding very plugged up (sinus). So I kept my mask on the entire flight (except when eating). After we land, THEN she puts her mask on. So far I am unscathed.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      She’s a dunderheaded douche, likely a Margie Titty Green voter and science denier.

      Glad you’re conscientious and well and healthy.

  59. Christian Guest

    I recently had a trip where I flew JFK-FRA with a couple of days layover to visit family and then on to VIE for a couple of days of work. What I noticed is that at JFK and on the flight to FRA everything seemed to be quiet but as soon as I landed and got off the plane in FRA it was like I walked into a doctors office full of coughing people. My...

    I recently had a trip where I flew JFK-FRA with a couple of days layover to visit family and then on to VIE for a couple of days of work. What I noticed is that at JFK and on the flight to FRA everything seemed to be quiet but as soon as I landed and got off the plane in FRA it was like I walked into a doctors office full of coughing people. My flight down to VIE was ridiculous and in Vienna everyone was hacking. I kept thinking to myself that hopefully I make it back to the US without getting sick. Luckily I did!

  60. Tim Dunn Diamond

    I have been on 3 flights in 3 airlines in 4 countries with a big ocean between and haven’t seen any difference than normal in coughs or respiratory issues

  61. Jones Guest

    1) "Is it just me? Is anyone else traveling, and noticing an uncharacteristically high number of people who are sick?"
    I flew around Europe and Asia over Christmas and New Year and ONE person was noticeably coughing away.

    2) I'm not an anti-masker but I've never understood the logic behind double masking - doesn't the 1st mask render the 2nd mask's seal between mask and face ineffective?

    1. John Guest

      With two N95s, the second mask does in fact mess with the seal and make things worse. However, if you’re wearing a loose fitting mask like a surgical which has no seal, the 2nd mask presses the first one down and creates one.

      So depends on the mask type. Personally prefer a vflex N95. Flexible and breatheable like a surgical but forms strong seal.

    2. kuma Member

      There're also people wearing n95's underneath better-looking cloth masks.

  62. Aussie Guest

    One can have a post viral cough for months after recovery from an infection. And there are other non infectious causes of chronic cough too.

    Why should these people have to avoid travel/public spaces just to appease the sensitivities of mentally deranged hypochondriac covid zealots.

    Ppl will cough. Those who can’t handle this should stay home forever.

    1. Vinay Guest

      Awesome post - couldn't agree more!

    2. Ella Guest

      I finally figured out that all these anti-science people must be thinking, “What did science ever do for me? Almost flunked me out of high school, that’s what.” So now they scream their mental deficiencies all over social media.

  63. PM1 Guest

    I flew several long-haul flights over Christmas break with family and we had the same experience. People were constantly coughing and sneezing. I was in business class for 3 out of my 4 longhaul flights + some domestic first class. I ended up falling sick, which ruined our vacation, recovered and then fell sick again after the return flight. I did not mask, which I should have.

  64. Mike Guest

    The coughing seems to be a lingering effect of Covid and RSV. The people are not necessarily sick, they just have not gotten over the cough that came with previously being sick. Still rude to not cover their mouth when coughing.

  65. Eskimo Guest

    "(and even though masks were required, he took off his mask every time he needed to cough — oy!)."

    The whole idea is you cough INSIDE the mask.

    Like I said in another post.

    HEADPHONES = MASKS

    Either you get it or you don't.

  66. LC Guest

    I went nearly three years without Covid and traveled plenty (starting in 2021, post-vax). Then I traveled late December of 2022, and by January 3 I had my first case. Thankfully mild but Covid nonetheless while on my holiday.

  67. Anthony Guest

    I have been surrounded by people coughing and sneezing on every single flight. I started wearing masks again on all flights. Recently, I had a woman from rural GA sitting next to me on a flight to ATL tell me "those masks do nothing." I just said "thanks" and put my headphones back on while she coughed incessantly. Flu, RSV, and Covid are definitely spiking and people are not staying home or masking up. I see it getting worse.

  68. Donato Guest

    I am not posting as a Health professional!!!
    The gist of the article refers to people coughing and likely being sick, probably contagious. I just want to mention that the anecdote of a fellow passenger coughing every 20 seconds might be an acid reflux problem. It might also be that the person was not sell and should not have travelled.

  69. Brad C Guest

    And it's always the people without masks that are coughing.

  70. D3kingg Guest

    Ben can you show us your itinerary post trip ? I understand for privacy reasons you don’t want to make that information public in advance. Maybe you can blackout dates. I’m just curious how much you flew in four days .

    1. Eskimo Guest

      This shouldn't be a measuring contest.
      But the whole trip report should be out soon with the itinerary (or at least you can connect the dots).
      If you did follow his posts, maybe in 2 weeks?

      But to guess.

      USA-VIE(1)-FRA(2)-BAH(3)-BKK(4)-SIN(5)-HAN/SGN(6)-L/F(7)-Z(8)-USA

      So do the math.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      Typo, that should have been FCO.

    3. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ D3kingg -- I promise I'll publish the full itinerary with the trip report, standby, it's starting soon. :-)

  71. Creditcrunch Diamond

    I started to notice when I got home from the US mid November, my weekly commute into London was marked with a symphony of coughs and blowing of noses. It steadily got worse and I caught man flu on Christmas Eve, no amount of vitamin C or D helped me evade the circulating bug.

  72. grichard Guest

    Posts like this, with an obvious connection to Covid, should just have the comments turned off. So much more heat than light here.

  73. Willem Guest

    Both couples seated in front and in back of my throne seat on Aer Lingus last night

  74. IrishAlan Member

    I spent 2 weeks in the UK and Ireland and definitely noticed this! I regret not masking more than I did as I came back the other day with a bad cold (negative for COVID) and have joined the coughing group, ugh!
    What killed me is that the pandemic, instead of encouraging better health behaviors, simply reinforced some assholes and their inconsiderate behavior. It is one thing to be sick in public and not...

    I spent 2 weeks in the UK and Ireland and definitely noticed this! I regret not masking more than I did as I came back the other day with a bad cold (negative for COVID) and have joined the coughing group, ugh!
    What killed me is that the pandemic, instead of encouraging better health behaviors, simply reinforced some assholes and their inconsiderate behavior. It is one thing to be sick in public and not wear a mask, but the amount of people not even covering their cough!!! I literally had somebody open cough in my face…probably the person that made me sick!

  75. beachmouse Member

    Last July in the skies seemed to have a bunch of sick folks too before tapering down for the second half of the year. My household is still at a ‘throw a mask on if you’re going to be somewhere sick people hang out’ point. Since I picked up three pretty unpleasant bugs between 2013-2017 directly because of plane travel, I’ve never stopped masking on planes even when you didn’t have to anymore. And we...

    Last July in the skies seemed to have a bunch of sick folks too before tapering down for the second half of the year. My household is still at a ‘throw a mask on if you’re going to be somewhere sick people hang out’ point. Since I picked up three pretty unpleasant bugs between 2013-2017 directly because of plane travel, I’ve never stopped masking on planes even when you didn’t have to anymore. And we had zero travel-based illnesses in 2021-22 even though we’re flying more than we ever have.

  76. JP Guest

    Just flew DEN-MUC-LHR-AUH-GVA-JFK-SLC and did't have it nearly as bad as you did but it was certainly noticeable, especially among kids. Kids behind me in immigration at AUH were wet-coughing up a storm and parents didn't seem to care. Has't been as bad on flights but certainly in airports/lounges ive noticed it alot.

  77. Never In Doubt Guest

    Newsflash: People get sick in the winter. Man notices. Film at 11.

    1. DavidW Guest

      Yes, people get sick. However they can take relatively simple measures to not spread it to others.

  78. Greg Guest

    Just returned from 10 days in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Yes, I definitely noticed this. My wife and son flew a different route and said the same thing. I also saw what you did, with a passenger next to me that pulled his mask down every time he coughed and then put it back on. Ugh. I was on JAL for most flights and we were required to wear masks onboard and in the terminal,...

    Just returned from 10 days in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Yes, I definitely noticed this. My wife and son flew a different route and said the same thing. I also saw what you did, with a passenger next to me that pulled his mask down every time he coughed and then put it back on. Ugh. I was on JAL for most flights and we were required to wear masks onboard and in the terminal, so I at least felt better about flying them. Even masked, I still managed to pick up a head cold about 2 days after returning.

  79. John T Guest

    Its winter. People get sick in winter.

    1. JDee Diamond

      Currently, a large percentage of the 850 million people in the Southern Hemisphere would disagree with you

  80. atcsundevil Guest

    Last month, I had 19 flights (four transatlantic and the rest intra Europe) in seven countries. I noticed the exact same thing. Everyone coughing and sneezing, almost none of them wearing a mask (so much for any hope that masking while sick might catch on). Now I have covid. Hopefully you have better luck than me!

  81. Ryan Guest

    I've noticed this as well (just flew 4 flights to/from South America and noticed it on each flight), so much so that I'm now wearing a mask when I fly, even though I'm not sick and even though I'm flying business, though I take it off once I'm seated and everyone is done boarding.

  82. Iolaire McFadden Guest

    This sounds worse than our travels in summer and fall. Generally, there was two people within a five-row economy block coughing in our flights. And a few times it's been people directly near my wife and me.

    Personally, I feel anyone who is showing signs of illness, i.e., coughing nonstop should be forced to wear a mask or be deplaned. Airlines stop people from boarding for all sorts of natural situations, being in late...

    This sounds worse than our travels in summer and fall. Generally, there was two people within a five-row economy block coughing in our flights. And a few times it's been people directly near my wife and me.

    Personally, I feel anyone who is showing signs of illness, i.e., coughing nonstop should be forced to wear a mask or be deplaned. Airlines stop people from boarding for all sorts of natural situations, being in late term pregnancy, unable to accommodate allergies, etc... and this should be one of them.

    It's hard not to debate masking with many people/commenters but my mask is much more effective if people with illness are masked.

  83. Bagoly Guest

    I have not been travelling, but for the week after Christmas Day, I sure did cough, more frequently, harder, and for longer than ever before (and I'm one of the older readers) In Central Europe.
    The coughing was impossible to control, so manners were of limited effect.
    Had I had tickets for a concert, I would have just had to not go.
    So it's somewhat reassuring to hear that I'm not the...

    I have not been travelling, but for the week after Christmas Day, I sure did cough, more frequently, harder, and for longer than ever before (and I'm one of the older readers) In Central Europe.
    The coughing was impossible to control, so manners were of limited effect.
    Had I had tickets for a concert, I would have just had to not go.
    So it's somewhat reassuring to hear that I'm not the only one who suffered/is suffering.
    I also had a blocked nose prompting repeated sniffing, but often nothing came out when I tried to blow - if I had been around other people I can see how that could cause incorrect assumptions of lack of manners.

    It could be that this year's cold viruses just happen to have that effect, reduction in transmission of viruses making us more sensitive now the world is open again, Covid vaccines meaning our immune systems largely resist some other viruses (i.e. previously the same infection would have put us in bed) or probably, some combination of factors.

    I do think there is also some effect from most of us being more aware of symptoms highlighted during Covid.
    Just as once somebody points out a particular feature of writing style, one notices it more easily.

  84. kuma Member

    I can't wait to see people obsessed with "mask shaming" to shift into the next phase of hand washing shaming:
    "You wash your hand and take baths? Sheep! It doesn't work and you are just wasting water."

  85. Khatl Diamond

    I also noticed lots of people coughing everywhere when traveling through 3 countries in Europe over the holidays. Appears a tough winter with a lot of folks getting sick.

  86. Bret Guest

    Same for me. Traveling around Europe, mainly by train, the coughing is everywhere. I’ve also been masking more than I thought I would.

    @Robert Shrader
    There’s nothing wrong with simply pointing out that people are masking. There’s also nothing wrong with taking a simple precaution to try and avoid getting sick. It’s time to start tolerating others’ personal decisions on masking.

  87. SG Guest

    It’s winter bro! Get used to winter like it always was!

  88. Rjb Guest

    Instead of needlessly traversing the planet , burning jet fuel, and contributing to the earth melting, you can always stay home?

    1. Tyler Guest

      Why are you reading a travel blog, RJB?

    2. Todd Guest

      He's not. He's only trolling and shit posting.

    3. Ryan Guest

      I don't have kids (and won't) and don't drive, which I believe more than offsets any climate impact from my travel. Are you childless and without a car, too?

      Otherwise, you're part of the problem and not the solution.

    4. Santastico Diamond

      Are you related to Greta?

  89. Anthony Diamond

    During the covid, we could have normalized the practice of wearing a mask if you are sick while traveling - it helps prevent the spread of illness. But masking got caught up in the "mandate" debate, and both pro mask and anti mask zealots ruined it.

    I have noticed a bit of coughing while traveling recently. Flight attendants and others should carry masks and hand them out to those coughing. I haven't had a...

    During the covid, we could have normalized the practice of wearing a mask if you are sick while traveling - it helps prevent the spread of illness. But masking got caught up in the "mandate" debate, and both pro mask and anti mask zealots ruined it.

    I have noticed a bit of coughing while traveling recently. Flight attendants and others should carry masks and hand them out to those coughing. I haven't had a cold or anything else in a while, but I would mask if I were sick and had to travel. I have also returned to masking on mass transit (subways, commuter rail, etc) in NYC during the winter.

    Masking periodically makes sense.

    1. CXP Member

      Love the idea of handing out masks (in a nice and helpful way) to people who cough. Perhaps over time that could even lead to a culture change similar to what we have in Japan (wear a mask when you feel unwell to avoid making others sick).

  90. Santastico Diamond

    People cough all the time. Some people are disrespectful and clear their throat like they are at home. Disgusting. But no, people are not coughing more. You are just a bit in panic because of the pandemic. It is the same as before. I don’t wear masks. I just make sure I am healthy and keep my immune system in balance. I try to avoid being next to people coughing but won’t stop traveling or wear a mask because of it.

    1. tcATL Member

      People are definitely coughing more. I have literally zero panic about the pandemic and haven't for months, but I could hear the symphony through noise-cancelling headphones on both flights in the last week.

      No one is saying don't travel... just pointing out that more assholes are traveling while sick and not putting on a stupid mask if they are.

  91. TS Guest

    Probably most are coughing from the lasting damage from Covid....

  92. Tim Guest

    Thanks Ben, finally someone who recognizes this, too! I already feared I might have gotten more sensitive due to COVID but I feel the same trend. Everybody keeps constantly coughing right now and I simply find it disgusting. It even feels like people got even more radical about spreading their germs after COVID is no longer considered life-threatening. This is crazy and I continue to wear FFP2 masks whenever I enter rooms and especially when...

    Thanks Ben, finally someone who recognizes this, too! I already feared I might have gotten more sensitive due to COVID but I feel the same trend. Everybody keeps constantly coughing right now and I simply find it disgusting. It even feels like people got even more radical about spreading their germs after COVID is no longer considered life-threatening. This is crazy and I continue to wear FFP2 masks whenever I enter rooms and especially when traveling. I don’t mind getting those fierce stares from people who love being coughed in their faces. Here‘s to hoping that winter ends soon because I have no hopes that people will find reasonable behavior anytime soon. And, same as you, I have quite enjoyed the social distancing for the last years, not constantly being forced to engage in social events and all that stuff but rather being able to reduce my social contacts to the people I actually like being around rather than my work colleagues, etc.

  93. Robert Schrader Guest

    The only thing that will prevent you from getting sick is having a healthy body and immune system. Shaming others for coughing; wearing a face mask; generally being a hypochondriac—none of these behaviors are going to ward off illness.

    Seriously, it's 2023. It's time to let go of pandemic-era panic and get back to normal life. If you can't, then stay home within your infant son.

    1. Tim Guest

      Have you not read this article at all? This is not about COVID! This is about not wanting to become sick and spending a week in bed. I don’t want to be forced to be sick because some idiots cannot understand the concept of decency. Man, just stay at home if you are sick! Is that so terribly hard? Why do you feel you have the right to decide whether you are allowed to endanger other people?

    2. Anthony Diamond

      Some people must travel, regardless of whether they are sick. In that situation - they should mask.

    3. Khatl Diamond

      Biology 101 - a healthy body and immune system do not prevent you from getting sick. Also, if you're real sick with flu, why would a reasonable person not think about restricting their activities v. spread it to hundreds of others; it's just basic consideration for others.

    4. Todd Guest

      Can you imagine reading Ben's post and the takeaway is Robert's drivel?

    5. Steve Diamond

      He brings up a good point, just control what you can control we would be far better off if we all were healthier. Instead of focusing on making ourselves healthier our society blames blames everything on someone else and the focus is never internally where it should be.

    6. beachmouse Member

      Even healthy people get unpleasantly sick. Yes, I’m still cranky about how the cold I picked up on a Southwest flight in 2013 turned into six weeks of hacking bronchitis and messed up my plans to get back into triathlons that year since the coughing got in the way of getting meaningful swim training in.

  94. Chris St Clair Guest

    I snagged a nasty cold flying LHR to YHZ in October (the person in front of me and behind coughed much of the trip) I should have had the smarts to mask up. Then, last Thursday, I had a cougher beside me MCO-YYZ .. guess what, I didn’t wear a mask and have a nasty cold again. I really think it comes down to that mask, perhaps people who cough a lot could wear one to spare the rest of us. Happy New Year!

  95. Niko_jas Guest

    Same. Traveling around the UK on 4 flights last week and every flight had serious coughing on the rows behind and in front of me.
    Probably we are more conscious about it than pre covid but still.

    1. Frederik Guest

      The U.K. it is far worse than the rest of Europe due to a failing health system and the poverty caused by the Hard Tory Brexit. While the royals have various palaces, many ordinary citizens are living in mould filled draughty homes as it is a very unequal and divided country.

    2. Frederik Guest

      In the disunited Kingdom it is far worse than the rest of Europe due to a failing health system and the poverty caused by the Hard Tory Brexit. While the royals have various palaces, many ordinary citizens are living in mould filled draughty homes as it is a very unequal and divided country.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Tim Guest

Have you not read this article at all? This is not about COVID! This is about not wanting to become sick and spending a week in bed. I don’t want to be forced to be sick because some idiots cannot understand the concept of decency. Man, just stay at home if you are sick! Is that so terribly hard? Why do you feel you have the right to decide whether you are allowed to endanger other people?

9
frrp Gold

No, everyone still thinks antivaxers are dumb.

7
DavidW Guest

Wearing a mask is no big deal. This isn't about politics or staying home forever if concerned about getting sick. It's about simple human decency. If you are sick, please take precautions to not spread it to others. Cover when you cough and, ideally, wear a mask Simple as that.

7
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
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