What to Consider Before You Travel in the Era of COVID-19

Over the past couple weeks I have tried to avoid weighing in on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) hysteria. After all, I am not a medical professional and I am anything but a germaphobe or an alarmist. As a matter of fact I’m probably just the opposite.  However, this past weekend I noticed a trend in travel bloggers posting their own opinions on the subject and reposting the thoughts of others with whom they agree.

By and large the attitude I’ve seen is that “it’s all overblown by the media” and “we aren’t all going to die.” “ It’s basically the flu.” “ Keep traveling!” And if you do get it “you’ll be OK.” You’re young and healthy.

This attitude has left me sad and a bit angry at the messaging coming from the travel community. In my opinion many travel bloggers are being reckless with other people’s health. 

Another Point of View

Here’s a different point of view and some resources to help you make informed travel decisions going forward (plus a cool real time map).  I’m not here to tell you whether to travel or stay home. But here are some things I think every responsible traveler should consider before hopping on the next plane, cruise ship or train. 

People around the globe are dying and will continue to do so for some time. From everything I have read, and similar to the flu, the rate at which the disease spreads will likely slow down with warmer weather. But that does not mean the end of the problem. Like the flu, once Fall arrives, bringing cooler weather, if we still do not have a vaccine (which seems improbable at this time) it will likely flare back up. 

The people most affected are elderly, which by the way means 60 or over, or immuno-compromised. Disturbingly, some of what I have seen on social media makes it seem as if these subgroups don’t even deserve our consideration. 

COVID 19

You might be tempted to justify your travel by saying it isn’t any more fatal than the flu. And right now looking at the information available today (published on 3/4/2020 the rate seems to be around 1% for COVID-19) (updated 3/11/2020: a 2 – 3.4% fatality rate vs 1% for the flu) I think that may be a fair conclusion. But the problem is this disease is more contagious. Epidemiologist use a the term R0 or R-naught which indicates the number of people who are at risk for infection from a single infected person. According to the University of Michigan School of Public Health COVID -19 has an R-O of R0 of 1.4–4.8 compared to the seasonal flu with an R0 of 2 to 3. More sick people equals more deaths or at least more seriously ill individuals.

I imagine people in high risk categories (of which I am one) will be more thoughtful than the young and healthy traveler when considering their next jaunt. And that’s understandable. But to the younger traveler, I ask you to consider whether your leisure travel will put someone you love at a greater risk than necessary. 

Because a person can be contagious up to two weeks before showing signs of being sick, you might want to think twice about visiting grandma as soon as you return home from your European vacation. You may not want to hug that friend who has an autoimmune disease. You might not even want to shake hands with the person you are meeting for the first time.

My Message to the Travel Blogging Community

Now let’s consider the motives behind the “keep traveling” message of the blogging community. I realize what comes next will be unpopular and may come off as cynical. But honestly, I think maybe some bloggers need to be called out. 

We’ve all seen the traffic to our sites plummet with the stock market. Which I would argue has as much to do with the drop in readership as COVID-19. No discretionary cash means no travel for most. 

It’s no wonder travel bloggers are urging people to continue traveling. If people stop flitting around the globe they have no reason to read our blogs let alone buy the products being promoted there. If this is your motive, well, shame on you. Get more creative with your content!

And to those travel bloggers who are putting out solid factual information and allowing people to form their own opinions, I commend you. Keep up the good work!

Click image to see real time updates

I urge the travel blogging community to consider your message. The CDC is warning against travel to certain destinations. We have seen major upcoming travel events cancelled in recent days. And for God’s sake the airlines and corporations are cancelling trips. Corporations don’t do this for shits and giggles. They lose a ton of money doing this and that’s one thing corporations surely don’t like. I can’t even believe that I’m telling small business owners to follow the example set by Big Business on an issue like this. But here we are.

Let me wrap this up by suggesting we consider travelling to nearby destinations. Perhaps we try visiting places we can get to by car. Let’s get to know those interesting places in our backyard. COVID-19 doesn’t have to mean we can’t travel but perhaps we need to rethink how we travel at least for a time.

Finally, remember to wash your hands and cover your cough.

Useful Links 

CDC Website – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html

Johns Hopkins – https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coronavirus/

From Harvard Health – https://bit.ly/2PKxR0v

From Yale Medicine – https://bit.ly/2vs0V6l

Live Updates from NBC – https://nbcnews.to/3cSKa4Q

A Cool Real Time Maps from Johns Hopkins – https://bit.ly/38fMVcV

Good Reads

How the Coronavirus Spreads – https://nyti.ms/3aoP9rV

How to Disinfect Your Space on an Airplane – https://nyti.ms/2TxBtUY

Reduce Your Risk of Getting Sick – https://bit.ly/2TsYFmY

Busting the Coronavirus Myths – https://bit.ly/2Tk52dH

Added 3/5/2020

US ramps up Coronavirus response – https://cbsn.ws/2PRHta1

Symptoms: Who’s at Risk – https://on.wsj.com/2IpeIx3

Added 3/11/2020

Travel Health Notices from the CDC – https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices

Are Coronaviruses equally deadly – https://nbcnews.to/38KAiXy

Are Coronaviruses equally infectious? – https://nbcnews.to/2Q8xFbC

What is a pandemic? – https://bit.ly/2W6ElLa 

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Susan Decoteau-Ferrier

Travel writer/blogger, photographer. Avid potter and wanna-be artist. Wife, Mom to 6 fur kids, gardener, coffee snob.

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