Two days ago I published a post about Alaska Airlines’ interactive virtual panel session with experts from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington and Alaska Airlines personnel concerning a variety of COVID-19-related issues including testing, vaccine development, and strategies for protecting ourselves and each other. 

The panel session was held late last night, my time. The complete session is currently available here. Click on “watch on the web” and then “join anonymously.” The program is one hour. It is worth seeing.

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I watched on my laptop. It was a great program. Here are the seven key points I took away:

  1. When a study concludes that a vaccine is 95% effective that means there is a 95% chance the vaccine will prevent severe COVID-19 disease.  The vaccines do not prevent infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 
  2. Anyone who is infected can spread the infection.  Vaccinated people can be dangerous to others.   Vaccines, then, are not the “SARS-CoV-2 get out of jail free and travel the world” cards I’d hoped for.  As far as crossing international borders, vaccinated people will probably be treated the same as non-vaccinated people.
  3. Much about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 remains unknown.  Listening to this discussion that becomes obvious fast.  The experts readily admit it.  The good news is that the experts know a lot about how to stay safe.
  4. Tests are being developed that are inexpensive and easy enough to be used at home daily.  Production of sufficient quantities of these tests  may be an issue.
  5. Experts don’t know for sure if someone who was previously infected can become reinfected and transmit SARS-CoV-2.
  6. You can volunteer to be part of a Phase 3 or Phase 4 SARS-Cov-2 vaccine study.  Go to and click on “Clinical Studies” for more information or go to Fred Hutch
  7. Commercial airliners come with HEPA cabin air filters that remove 99.97% of particles the size of virus or larger.  Cabin air is completely filtered every 2 -3 minutes.  When the air is filtered it is mixed with outside air.  Cabin air is completely replaced about every six minutes.  While air pressure in the cabin remains constant (about 8,000ft) up to the aircraft service ceiling, the concentration of oxygen decreases with altitude.  Oxygen concentration at sea level is about 21%.  At the service ceiling of most commercial airliners the concentration of oxygen in the cabin air is as low as 15%.  This has nothing to do with coronavirus, but it helps explain some of the other physiological effects you notice in the jet stream.

Josh Nice, Alaska Airlines Director of Safety and Quality Assurance, began the program with a rundown of the coronavirus effort Alaska Airlines was making.  Not surprisingly, he claims that flying on Alaska Airlines is safe.     

Some of the things Alaska is doing include:

  • mandating masks
  • markers to ensure appropriate physical distancing in the airport
  • blocking middle seats through January 6, 2021
  • enhanced cleaning before every flight
  • HEPA filters
  • requiring preordering food so no payments on board

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Final Thoughts

Kudos to Alaska Airlines for putting together an interactive virtual panel session with SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 experts from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington and Alaska Airlines personnel and making it available to the public. It was very informative to hear from these experts in a format that promoted serious discussion.

There were over 1,000 questions submitted in advance of the session. My question asked if safety was at all compromised because these vaccines were developed so fast. That question wasn’t addressed in the session; however, Alaska Airlines says it will provide additional answers in writing in the near future.

Take a look at the web session if you have a few minutes. What questions would you have for the experts? How about volunteering for a vaccine study?