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Coronavirus is making us so paranoid that a plane landed because someone sneezed

Published Mar 11th, 2020 9:08PM EDT
Coronavirus impact
Image: Zach Honig / The Points Guy

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  • As COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, continues to wreak havoc on so much of daily life here and around the world, from the cancellation of major conferences and events like the E3 gaming expo and Coachella to a shift toward more work-from-home job arrangements, one thing that arguably hasn’t gotten enough attention is the paranoia that’s starting to be generated by the virus, as well as the potential for people to overreact.
  • The coronavirus impact on travel is already particularly acute, with some airlines even resigning themselves to flying what have been regarded as “ghost flights” in light of the slump in demand from consumers. In one of the more extreme examples of the kinds of reactions the virus is causing, however, a recent United Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency, unplanned stop after passengers freaked out over someone sneezing on the plane.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned national lawmakers on Wednesday — the same day that the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic — that when it comes to the spread of the virus here, “the worst is yet to come.

In light of the tens of thousands of infected people around the world, as well as the scores of deaths attributable to the virus, it should come as no surprise that the virus has begun to spark pretty serious reactions bordering on overreaction and even paranoia in some people. To wit: A recent United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency, unplanned stop after a passenger’s sneezing caused other passengers on the plane to basically freak out — so much so that the pilot was forced to land.

The United flight was headed to Newark, New Jersey, from Eagle, Colorado, over the weekend. It was forced to land in Denver after the passenger’s sneezes caused a disruption among other passengers. Denver police told a local news affiliate that the passenger in question was sneezing and coughing as a result of the passenger suffering from allergies.

Three “disruptive” passengers were taken off the plane, according to the news account. At the same time, the passenger whose actions sparked the panic was tested and found to not have a fever. That passenger, who got screened on the plane, was allowed to continue on the flight to its final destination in Newark.

Unfortunately, these kinds of reactions are likely to only increase as a result of the virus’ continued spread in the US. Meanwhile, some new critical information has emerged via a study released Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. If you’ve been infected by the virus, you should expect symptoms to likely show up within about five days of exposure and definitely within about two weeks of exposure.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.