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Coronavirus - What you need to know

EDIT 4/2: These are uncertain times for travelers. Like you, we're watching the coronavirus news closely and adapting to it as quickly as we can. 

International travel in Europe is suspended and the US State Dept has set a Level 4 advisory for all outbound US travel.  We are relying on the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you're signed up on a 2020 Rick Steves tour and you have questions, please read our Coronavirus FAQ for Tour Members before contacting us.

Posted by
631 posts

You are welcome to discuss this topic in the comments below and wherever it may arise in our forum. However, please be sure you are looking to the CDC directly for your information. Even the good advice of fellow travelers in this forum should not supersede that of your health provider or the CDC.

Posted by
5017 posts

Thank you for posting this and staying on top of current developments. Although things are changing (and will continue to evolve for some time), I think it's important to keep calm and follow science-based advice from reliable sources. While it's wise to be cautious and it's understandable to be concerned, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and some irrational fears.

Personally, I've recently heard from family members who just canceled their trip (ironically, they would be coming from Asia to visit the USA, specifically Seattle...in my view there's a lot more risk simply being where they are than coming here, but it's their choice and I respect their decision). Me, I'm headed for Europe next week. We will be taking some basic extra precautions (washing our hands a lot, wiping down airline trays and other contact items with disposable wipes while in transit, avoiding being pressed together in dense crowds, trying to maintain a little extra "personal space" when possible, and we do have some cloth surgical masks we will bring just in case we find ourselves in a tightly packed space).

But we are not canceling our plans or really modifying them in any significant ways. We will make an extra effort to begin our trip well-rested and healthy, and will try our best to keep things that way as we enjoy our time.

Posted by
505 posts

My mom and I just returned yesterday from the Netherlands, Belgium and London. We consulted with our family doctor before the trip and took the same precautions we always do with trying to keep healthy while traveling.

Posted by
2269 posts

Thanks for posting this. I would suggest you keep this as an active thread so when you log onto the travel forum you see it.

Posted by
40 posts

Thanks for anticipating our concerns. I'm scheduled to fly to Milan on 3/17 to join the VFR tour in Venice on the 20th. I am not afraid of getting sick, but I am concerned that things we want to do and see will be closed impacting the trip.

Posted by
1378 posts

The German government has a website with current information on the coronavirus.

As per today the 16 cases in Germany are cured and were the only ones so far (Feb. 25). Most of them were brought by a Chinese visitor to a company in Bavaria.
Irony: it is a company for various products around air conditioning.

Large fairs in Europe are cancelled or moved to autumn (e. g. Mobile World Conbress in Barcelona or the Light & Building in Frankfurt).

Situation of living in Germany is currently very normal. No face masks, no area checks.

Posted by
3036 posts

The CDC map and list report specific countries (some of them very big), but not specific locations within the country. The CBS Evening News tonight reported on Venice, which has seen people infected with the virus. At Carnevale time, it was not unexpected to see people wearing masks - but not Carnevale anonymity masks, medical face masks! Hope this situation gets fixed and ended, for everyone’s sake. Stay well!

Posted by
1996 posts

Just bumping this to the top so we all can stay informed.

Posted by
5017 posts

Doesn't need any "bumping". It's a "sticky" topic, so it always appears at the top of the list (an intentional setting). And I'm sure it will receive plenty of organic replies as well as updates as the CDC info is updated. Play on.

Posted by
1774 posts

1000s quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife, Austria, Switzerland, and Croatia are reporting their first cases too, and in Southern Italy, a tourist from Lombardi tested positive in Sicilia.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2020/feb/25/coronavirus-live-updates-outbreak-latest-news-italy-italia-deaths-symptoms-china-stocks-wall-street-dow-jones-economy-falls

And in Barcelona, the first confirmed case of Coronavirus, an Italian woman in her 30s recently back from a family visit to Northern Italy (Bergamo and Milan).

https://www.lavanguardia.com/vida/20200225/473782485232/coronavirus-primer-caso-cataluna.html

Posted by
1996 posts

If you read by "All Topics," this does not stay at the top of the page.

Posted by
127 posts

This from a just posted article in the NYT regarding a warning from the CDC:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/world/asia/coronavirus-news.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

(Sorry if it's behind a paywall, but the "relevant" quotes are below.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

She said that public health officials have no idea whether the spread of the disease to the United States would be mild or severe, but that Americans should be ready for a significant disruption to their daily lives.

“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Dr. Messonnier said.

and from the Sec'y of HHS:

The secretary of health and human services delivered an equally sobering message on Tuesday. The secretary, Alex M. Azar II, told a Senate committee, “This is an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally.”

Federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers and additional ventilators for hospitals to prepare for a major outbreak of coronavirus, he said.

“We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus,” Mr. Azar said. “And we need to be realistic about that.”

I'm not trying to be a scaremonger, just posting the latest from "real" authorities. We are scheduled to depart for Europe in a month, so this issue is quite relevant to us. We will NOT cancel until we are less than a week from our departure, and then only if advised not to travel by the authorities, but I do have a bad feeling about our trip. I have no desire to be quarantined abroad for a lengthy period, nor do I want to be an unwitting spreader.

My best to you all.

Posted by
74 posts

My guess is, it is a matter of common sense and luck. Right now doesn't look too bad. If it gets crazy don't go!

Posted by
1862 posts

Webmaster team,
Thank you for reiterating the importance to look to the CDC for accurate up to date information on the Coronavirus. As mentioned, the information is rapidly evolving.

Posted by
7107 posts

Why is there no quarantine for the flu?
Between 291,000 and 646,000 people die from the flu each year. Coronavirus has killed 2,698 so far.

Posted by
2286 posts

CDC has not yet declared this a pandemic, but said that people need to prepare for it to spread in the US. We are starting to stock up the supplies we would need in case of a lockdown-starting with the most essential items: catfood (so they don't eat us). We are still planning to go to England at end of March.

Posted by
631 posts

This is a quick note to say that I've pulled back a few posts that were largely conjecture and citing hearsay about what may happen. We understand the concerns, but let's keep it rooted in what we know.

Thanks, everyone.

Posted by
2269 posts

I’m one who always buys travel insurance. The Coronavirus has added a new twist. This from the InsureMyTrip.com website:
Them-Currently, if you are looking for trip cancellation coverage because you are concerned about the coronavirus (COVID-19), you will now need to purchase a plan that includes Cancel For Any Reason since the travel warnings are now foreseen. This benefit is time-sensitive and has other eligibility requirements, so not all travelers will qualify. Please be sure to read the plan details carefully before purchasing.

Remember that travel insurance only helps to cover unexpected events. The coronavirus became a named event on January 22, 2020. Similar to a weather event, once an event becomes a "known" event, it may not be a covered reason for cancellation if a traveler books a trip after that date.

Me-So, if you have a concern about losing non-refundable expenses you’ll need to buy a policy with a “cancel for any reason” proviso. There is much more so see this which I expect will be added to as time goes on: https://www.insuremytrip.com/travel-insurance-plans-coverages/coronavirus-travel-insurance/

Posted by
1061 posts

Webmaster Team

The posting of the FAQs on the web Home Page is extremely helpful. One minor addition would be desirable. The current content says it has been updated, but what was added/changed? When something new has been added, or something revised, if it were high lighted with revision bars the reader would be able to find the changed material.

Posted by
1378 posts

Info: German Health Ministry and Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI) published an information flyer on coronavirus (COVID-19) and recommended behaviour for travelers after their journey.

Also travelers from other countries than Germany might find that helpful as general orientation on behavior after traveling risk-affected and risk-free areas (RKI classification of areas in German, aligned with WHO).

Link to pdf flyer in German, English and Chinese language:
https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Transport/Poster_Information_Reisende_china.pdf?__blob=publicationFile

Posted by
5017 posts

The Canadian site linked just above is excellent. Simple, straightforward, clear info and advice for travelers. Not alarmist, but not sugar-coated or spun to align with any political agenda. Good to know we can look to our great friends and neighbors to the north for science-based info.

Posted by
8479 posts

The President (of the U.SA) is holding a press conference tonight at 6:30PM ET to discuss the virus. Some news organizations are hinting that there might be more travel restrictions but they only mentioned South Korea and Japan. He may also appoint a health "czar" to deal with the virus.

This is not meant to be political but just to inform.

Posted by
573 posts

I think I'll rely on the Canadian and BBC sites.

Posted by
10648 posts

Good to know we can look to our great friends and neighbors to the
north for science-based info.

David, good to know they are better than our news media. I'll go there.

Posted by
573 posts

From the NY Times:

Government health officials and scientists will have to clear statements about the coronavirus outbreak with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, in an effort to tighten the White House’s control of messaging about the virus.

Posted by
16 posts

Hi all. We've removed a few posts. I just want to reiterate what the Webmaster has said previously about staying informed during this evolving situation, and to avoid conjecture.

Posted by
69 posts

Thank you for keeping us all posted... I can only imagine how busy everyone at RS must be..
Our tour isnot until August ...hopefully this will only be a bad memory by then..

Posted by
573 posts

Your censorship of informative posts is disappointing.

Posted by
361 posts

Your censorship of informative posts is disappointing

Maybe, but their site their call.

Posted by
2893 posts

I appreciate their monitoring the posts. Remember, often it is because forum members themselves file a report about a concern in the content. Politics or sensationalism will frequently trigger such reports as will soliciting for a business.

This topic in particular needs to stress a focus on facts over opinions. Too much depends on having correct information to base decisions on.

Posted by
5017 posts

The forum moderators have a difficult job, made more challenging recently, and it will probably be more so going forward. They often have to make "close calls", and we should all give them the benefit of the doubt. They've removed a few of my posts, and when they did so they were probably right. Remember the primary purpose of this site: while it has become a community of sorts, it's for their business, not a sounding board for all our opinions (even when our opinions are right!). Since it's a private site run by a business, they have the right to decide what's in bounds and what's not. Personally, I appreciate the info that is exchanged and available here and I appreciate the staff members' efforts to keep things civil and focused (and I will try to dial down my own my snark).

The virus story is evolving (and potentially stress-inducing) and will be with us for a long time. Let's all try to be patient, rational and treat each other as we would like to be treated.

Posted by
19 posts

David :

You are absolutely correct... this is their private site and they can ban and censor anyone they wish. A lower federal court just affirmed a recent challenge to private web sites censoring content.

I've listened to quite a few financial market related shows on both mainstream and internet radio lately and the one prognostication all of them are making is that if this Corona thing last for any lengthy time period, it will above all bankrupt much of the travel industry and their ancillaries.. -- so this site has a lot to lose if fear is unnecessarily spread.

Now my last comment is simply this : A friend of mine called me earlier tonight and told me the Pres Trump was answering some media questions this afternoon and in one of the last questions, he mentioned that the administration was considering the possibility of a future incoming ban of air travel from Italy. I have no idea of whether that's true or not as I have not time to narrow down and search for those comments

Posted by
5017 posts

Things are changing rapidly. Somewhat ironically (for some of us), the first US death from the virus was reported a couple hours ago in Seattle (where I live, and not far from Rick Steves HQ). It does seem that "community spread" of the virus (that is, among people who have no known connection with travel to the areas that are high;y impacted) is taking places across the states of California, Oregon and Washington. Currently awaiting a news conference from local/state authorities in a few minutes, so we should know a bit more soon.

By Monday am when the web staff return, a lot may have transpired. Perhaps they will be tending to updates over the weekend. It's a tricky time to be in the travel business.

Posted by
2893 posts

I was at the Rick Steves travel center this morning for a travel class on Portugal. (Great class by the way). What I observed was more people working in the travel center tour area than I usually see on a Saturday, and several walk ins with questions about upcoming tours related to the virus.

The virus was mentioned briefly at the class as a frequently changing situation and Rick Steves would post its most current info on the website as it relates to tours.

Posted by
1862 posts

I too was at RS today. We took the Italian Language Class for a review. No mention of the latest update. I will continue to monitor per CDC & Webmaster updates going forward. We are not scheduled for our trip until fall.

Posted by
3911 posts

Thanks again to RSE and the Webmaster for keeping us informed and ramping down some of the more speculative or extreme posts.

We're booked on a RS Italy tour in mid-May. I just bought tickets for a train journey in Italy post-tour. It may be foolish, but I don't think so. I'm reasonably confident (I'm never completely sure of anything) that the situation will have ameliorated by then.

At least we'll understand more about the virus, how it spreads, and how dangerous it is.

Posted by
1862 posts

Just to add, the Coronavirus has impacted my community. One death and several positive cases. I am grateful to the WA State Department of Health for taking a proactive stance. To Jane's point, between the Webmaster's reliable information & cdc we will understand more about the virus, how it spreads and how dangerous it is. "Knowledge is Power."

Posted by
1834 posts

I gotta admit I was somewhat (well, actually, rather really) surprised when I looked at the CDC's page re: coronavirus cases in the US. I had seen the updated maps on the various news stations today, but they did not appear to match what I remembered seeing on the CDC's page. So, I pulled up the CDC's site to double-check. I noticed this sentence on the CDC's page:

"This page will be updated regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting."

So, that indicates it is entirely likely that we will get more current information from the news networks.

For such a dynamically changing situation, this seems odd and concerning..........seems the page would be dynamically updated.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

Posted by
1834 posts

UPDATE:
As of today, the CDC is now updating its US map info daily. So, a good change to now have more current info :)

Posted by
885 posts

I checked the CDC site today and the numbers don’t match what is being reported as confirmed cases by the different news agency. The news reports 149 and the CDC reports 80.

Posted by
2211 posts

The news reports 149 and the CDC reports 80.

Gosh, I cannot imagine why that would be the case.

Posted by
6012 posts

This page will be updated regularly at noon Mondays through Fridays. Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting

This text from the CDC webpage.

So the 80 now listed on the CDC is the total from 4PM yesterday.

No real mystery

Posted by
127 posts

At this point in time, with all the uncertainty about where this coronavirus situation is going to be in the next few weeks, I think it is very irresponsible for anyone to be considering "pleasure" travel of any kind, domestic or foreign. Sure, the odds of "you" getting infected might be small, but "you":

1) Cannot predict where the next "hot spot" might occur.
2) Might just get infected because you are traveling on airlines, subway systems, trains, museums and other popular tourist sites, and crowded (with tourists from around the world) mass public transportation systems, lodging places, and restaurants.
3) Might just get stuck for two, three, or more weeks in a not very exciting quarantine situation, staring at the walls of some small room (cost unknown), perhaps thankful that you at least have access to TV or some books.
4) Might just be asymptomatic and end up being an unwitting spreader of a disease to someone(s) who just might die.

We are scheduled to depart for Europe (Madrid, Paris, London, and the English countryside) in just under three weeks. While we have not yet cancelled, barring a miracle, we will do so in the next few days. When we do cancel, we will likely incur significant expense--several thousand dollars--not a pleasing thought, but common sense outweighs money. Please keep in mind that even if you are "young and healthy and not at (significant) risk", you could still be someone who spreads the disease to someone who ends up dying.

Unnecessary travel is, I think, irresponsible. My very best to you all.

Posted by
2893 posts

I am going to disagree with the post about leisure travel being irresponsible right now.

There are too many variables at play here for a blanket judgement like that. Where a person is traveling, current health, and activities while traveling all play into this. I think we can respect the thoughtful decisions of others without passing judgement one way or the other.

Posted by
3911 posts

And given the horrific number of deaths from the flu in the United States - 16,000+ this flu season - I find it difficult to get too worried about Covid 19. Let's keep an eye on the situation and see how it develops.

Posted by
3114 posts

Couldn’t disagree more about it being “irresponsible“ to travel on vacation. Hyperbole & elitist judgement have no use, value or relevance.

Posted by
3889 posts

Current known statistics are 96,888 cases confirmed worldwide, 3,305 related deaths and 53,638 recoveries. Those statistics are pretty good to me. Of those deaths the highest percentage have been those aged over 80 and/or with other, mainly respiratory, illnesesses.

Posted by
2211 posts

No real mystery

joe32F-like anything there's a few ways to look at the situation. What I see is a "leader" who is concerned about how the economy looks and getting re-elected. So he assigns VP to handle the comms and coordination, and VP gives presser with no video or recording equipment permitted. We, the citizens, need information, and the presser could have given even a sound bite of outbreak status, but no recording permitted. That is a real mystery, sort of.

I am not trying to be political, but I will heartily suggest that we all get our info from a variety of sources. The excellent Johns-Hopkins breakdown, which I believe Agnes posted here a couple days ago, shows currently 162 cases in the U.S. By contrast, the CDC site still shows 80, and it is not going to be updated til 4 pm or so. So, for about 24 hours, people relying on the US Gov't for their info have a number approximately half of what JH site shows as current. That, too, is a real mystery, sort of.

And....after checking CDC at 6AM today and seeing it was not updated, I figured, oh it'll update around 4 pm...no. It's "updated" now, to 100 cases. I wonder why the disparity between Johns-Hopkins and CDC, though I think at this point I know what the cause of that is. Hope I'm wrong.

https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

Edited 3/5, 12:33 PM to add: CDC site now shows 99 cases in U.S. Johns-Hopkins site now showing 206 cases in U.S.

Edited 3/9 8:16 AM to add: CDC site shows 164 cases; Johns-Hopkins 566 cases. CDC site due to update after 4 PM today. CDC site updates only M-F.

Posted by
1036 posts

Willy,
Thank you for putting the welfare of others ahead of yourself. I strongly believe you have made the right decision. Let’s just hope this is just a postponement and you be able to take your planned trip in the near future.

Posted by
127 posts

Thanks Ginger and yosemite1. At the risk of sounding corny, I didn’t do anything worthy of thanks; I just expressed my two cents worth. Obviously, others disagree with me. So be it.

I would like to address some of the other comments. I’ll begin by saying that I don’t see any hyperbole in my OP and I certainly don’t see any “elitism”. Me? Elite? Now that there’s funny, I don’t care whatcha say. ;«)

Regarding “hyperbole”, I simply expressed my opinion that I viewed unnecessary travel as irresponsible. I supported that comment with four points, none of which are, in my opinion, in the least bit hyperbolic:
1) We cannot predict where the next “hotspot” will be. Would any of you have had reservations about New York City less than a week ago? Seattle a week-ish ago? Veneto three weeks ago? Tenerife? Regarding travel to currently “safe” spots, I’m reminded of the Clint Eastwood line: Do ya feel lucky? Do ya? (the word “punk” intentionally omitted) The next “hotspot” could be anywhere—even in your town.
2) One might (yes, I said “might” in my OP) just get infected and I cited air and train travel, crowded public transportation (i.e., subways, buses, etc.), and museums and the like as possible places for acquiring an infection.
3) One might just get stuck in a quarantine situation.
4) The possibility of being an asymptomatic carrier and thus maybe infecting others.

I fail to see any hyperbole in any of my suggestions and I definitely can’t begin to grasp where the accusation of “elitism” comes from?! Help me out here. What am I missing?

Now, in light of the most recent developments, I’ll add that a number of very large corporations have significantly cut back on their business travel for employees. Among them are: Ford, Amazon, Walmart, Google, CNN, Twitter, Facebook, JP Morgan, Microsoft, and IBM. Some of these companies are also encouraging a work-from-home policy to minimize employee contact with others.

Let me add here that I don’t view being in a foreign country per se as any more of a risk than being in this country—some hotspots obviously excluded. It’s the usual tourist behaviors (visiting museums, etc.) and the frequent use of (crowded) public transportation that increases the risk.

I don’t make my comments lightly. It still seems to me to be irresponsible to engage in unnecessary travel. Nuf said. Be healthy all.

PS: We still haven’t cancelled our trip, though I fear the day we do is fast approaching.

Posted by
885 posts

Good job Willy. No hyperbole or elitism from how read your posts. People need to do some serious reading for accurate updated information, as the situation is so fluid. I for one would be very upset if a coworker travelled to an area the CDC had travel warnings out and then infected me.
I have two RS tours in early and mid September and I will cancel if the CDC says to do so and possibly all on my own if I come from a high case amount where I live. I do not want to be part of spreading the virus to someone who might die from it!

Posted by
69 posts

Dear Willy
"Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful."
George Bernard Shaw.

Some things in life are bad

They can really make you mad

Other things just make you swear and curse

When you're chewing on life's gristle

Don't grumble, give a whistle

And this'll help things turn out for the best

And

Always look on the bright side of life

Eric Idle

Monty Python.

Chin up old boy.

Regards Ron

Posted by
1378 posts

Berlin's local public TV & radio station rbb was coming up with a creative approach addressing the issues of Corona Virus: Desinfection - a viral music video.

Let us keep on smiling a little bit. Life is for living, not for worrying.

Posted by
11676 posts

Willy,

Your post is articulate and totally appropriate. Clearly expresses the exact reasons we chose to cancel our Italy trip. We were to depart March 4.

And now here we are in Seattle, which validates your point #1. But we do not feel at all unsafe here. The so-called hotspot is concentrated in a single long-term care facility. It is a terrible tragedy for those affected. But the local employers, the University of Washington, and others have put in place good containment procedures. Classes at UW are canceled for the rest of winter quarter, and Amazon and other large employers are have many work from home.

Yesterday was the first day of our " staycay". We went for a nice 8-mile hike in the foothills, below snow level, and then went into Seattle for an errand at REI. The store and parking lot were practically empty. My husband joked about having to avoid using the hand railings as we went up and down all the stairways, but we did do just that. And I kept my hand sanitizer handy.

The downtown area in the "Amazon" part of town was eerily quiet. And on the way home we noticed that the synagogue parking lot where Amazon employees park for the special bus pickup was totally empty.

Alaska cruise season will be starting in a few weeks (early May), and I have to wonder if the big ships will be allowed to pick up or disembark passengers here.

Posted by
1862 posts

I would also like to commend Willy for sharing his wise and realistic comments on this thread. I have worked in Preventative Medicine for decades, but have never experienced anything like this current crisis. Like Lola, I too live in the Seattle area, actually 10 mins. from the "epicenter" of the affected long-term facility tragedy. We do not feel unsafe here. We are taking precautions per our Public Health Dept. and CDC. There are no guarantees but we are doing the best we can under the circumstances.

Things are rapidly evolving. As Lola mentioned many businesses have put in excellent containment procedures. People who can work remotely are doing so. Many entertainment venues are being canceled. Our local Senior Centers are closed indefinitely. Our local high school is closed for up to 14 days. The list of changes are growing. We are not taking this lightly. I already know of people who may have been exposed and are now isolating themselves for 2 weeks.

I do contract work and just yesterday my two jobs that I was scheduled for next week were cancelled. Many companies are being proactive and have a containment protocol in place. This makes sense. It's realistic.

Unfortunately there is still misinformation, fear and panic out there. I can only reiterate that the purpose of this thread is to follow trustworthy up-to-the-minute information as suggested by the RS Webmaster and team. This way we can make informed choices.

Posted by
1837 posts

I agree that Willy's post is thoughtful and devoid of hyperbole or elitist anything. To echo Janis, I have not seen anything like the COVID-19 crisis in my 25 years in medicine either (including the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic).

I was pretty skeptical of how big of a deal this was until reading the WHO/China COVID-19 report and listening to the team leader's 2-hour video conference. If there is anything that is devoid of speculation in the current situation it is this: travel spreads contagion. My opinion is that a private citizen who is looking out for his fellow citizens will limit travel. So, I have cancelled a trip to Germany in April and will probably end up canceling a trip to Bavaria and Austria in May unless there is a dramatic change in the situation.

I do not think those who disagree with me are elitist spawn of Satan, and I hope that perhaps we can get away from knee-jerk demonization of those who have opinions different from our own. Challenges to our own ideology are not threats, but opportunities for conversation, reflection and reassessment of our biases.

Posted by
941 posts

Two observations I want to make about this compared to the seasonal flu: one about data, and one anecdotal about "healthy" people getting the flu.

It is hard to assess risk given the lack of data - not enough testing to determine actual numbers infected and compare that to deaths - and then compare those numbers to seasonal flu, as some are taking heart in doing. Seasonal flu numbers are scary - my husband, an ER physician, says, if the news reported cases of flu and flu deaths every year in the same day-by-day way we are hearing about Covid-19, we would be much more on edge about the flu. And that is with flu vaccination, whose rates prevents the spread of flu from reaching pandemic proportions, and deaths from flu being many times multiplied. Because there is no level of herd immunity from this, and if there are 35,000 deaths per year in the US from seasonal flu, and so far this is roughly >10x the virulence (but again, without widespread testing, we don't know the virulence with certainty), we are looking at >350,000 deaths from this just in the US. How to mitigate these numbers is where public health protocols and travel advisories come into play. In the absence of protection from vaccination - however insufficient that may be - being vigilant about not spreading this is the only way to rein in the rate of bad outcomes.

As for bad outcomes, I was an "otherwise healthy 42 yo" eight years ago who was the only person in my family not vaccinated (husband is required to for his job, I vaccinate my kids because they were young and exposed through school, I did not fear getting the flu bc "its only the flu", and taking the time to get vaccinated was a nuisance). I did get the flu, it turned into the worst flu Ive ever experienced, I asked my Dh "how do people die of the flu because I feel like death?" and he said "they get pneumonia". After a week, Dh took me to the ER where I was diagnosed with a "whopping pneumonia" and promptly sent to the ICU and told I had a 30% mortality rate. I was in an d out of the hospital for the next month - complications that included a chest-tube and C. Diff. During all this, the doctors, colleagues and friends of my husband's, hovered around concerned, and said "if you werent 'an otherwise healthy ... this could easily have gone the other way"
This was all utterly surreal. I was a health-nut triathlete who "never got sick". I was the last person I would ever have imagined this happening to. The following year, my husband told me twice of a 42 and then a 43 yo "otherwise healthy" woman coming into the ER with exactly my diagnosis, and neither of them survived.
Suffice to say that my assessment of risk changed from that experience. Most here are fortunate enough to be in the "otherwise healthy" camp, and this certainly gives us benefits, but A. you just never know, and B. we could be a risk to others, and the list of vulnerable populations, remember, includes "otherwise healthy" infants and children.
My robust, vibrant stepmom was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. She is doing palliative chemo. She is in the Bay Area. Obviously she will take precautions to protect herself, but I would hope that others would think twice about their travels when this is spreading so fast and we dont know if we have it until we've already spread it.

Im not intending to shame anyone at all. I just want to underscore the delicate balance of managing public health that we all live with all the time but dont necessarily recognize

Posted by
1862 posts

Jessica,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and personal experiences. It's real stories like yours that makes for a teaching moment. As I have mentioned in other threads on this subject, I have worked in Preventative Medicine for decades. I have never seen anything like this, including the Pandemic H1N1 Influenza of 2009-2010. This is different. The virus brings up a lot of emotions. What I am hearing is disbelief, denial, panic anger, fear of the unknown, etc. It's a challenge to work through all of this.

The spread of the virus is rapidly evolving. Finally the world is taking action to contain the spread. I appreciated your statement "I am not intending to shame anyone at all, I just want to underscore the delicate balance of managing public health that we all live with all the time but don't necessarily recognize."

We are all vulnerable. I think the Coronavirus knows no boundaries.

Posted by
568 posts

Jessica,
I, too, want to thank you for your intelligent and thoughtful response, and for telling us about your personal experience. And to thank you for your comment that you are not intending to shame anyone at all. Your comments comparing and contrasting influenza with COVID-19 make sense to me, and also hit home with me. We are supposed to go to France with friends in April. We are leaving April 10 to visit our daughter and family, and our friends are joining us 2 weeks later to travel in France. Our friends are not worried about the coronavirus because they compare it to the number of people who have died from influenza, so they think people are panicking and over-reacting to COVID-19, and that this is a hysteria. I pointed out that we have a vaccine for influenza; and influenza is something we have experienced every year, but that this new coronavirus is new and unknown, and we haven't gone through a cycle/season of it yet. So we really don't know anything about it. And there is no guarantee it will die off in warm weather. And it wouldn't be as scary if we had a vaccine for it, in addition to the fact it is spreading so rapidly. I check the Johns Hopkins site, CDC, and WHO sites every day, so I am aware of how quickly this is spreading.

And to Janis' point that she is hearing disbelief and denial, I really believe that the reprehensible comments and untruths coming from our "leader" contributes to the disbelief and denial, and to our friends' reaction.

We spoke to our daughter and SIL in France today, and they believe the French government will go from level 2 to level 3 any day now, and France will be in the same situation as Italy. They are the next hotspot, unfortunately. We are not cancelling our trip just yet since we have about 5 weeks, so we will wait and see for the time being, but I am mentally preparing myself for cancelling. Missing the vacation part of our trip doesn't bother me so much; what will be upsetting is not being able to see our family.

Posted by
41 posts

Loved our two trips to Italy and all our visits to Europe but knowing what I believe to be true, Europe for the time being is not in my near future. Being a parent and grandparent is more important. When the dust settles hopefully another trip will be planned. Home looks good just now!

Posted by
2286 posts

Dave's comments should be in all caps. The big problem in our country right now is demonizing those who think differently. Everyone has a right to their opinion (even if it's wrong-said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.) However, we are our brother's keepers and need to keep this in mind if we travel during the current crisis.

Posted by
16545 posts

This article has includes some recent televised comments from current and former US-government medical folks:

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/08/health-officials-coronavirus-elderly-sick-risk-123889

In particular there's this:

"Scott Gottlieb, Trump's former FDA commissioner, predicted the coming weeks will 'change the complexion in this country,' adding that lockdowns of certain states or cities 'are going to need to happen' or health systems will get exhausted and fatalities will rise quickly.

" 'We have a narrow window of opportunity to implement tough measures to try to push down the scope of the epidemic,' Gottlieb said on CBS' "Face the Nation," adding that Americans are probably looking at two months of "difficulty" as the virus rapidly spreads the way it did in Italy and South Korea."

Edited to add: And Anthony Fauci "warned elderly and sick people to think twice before traveling or circulating in crowds."

Posted by
13891 posts

I'm posting about the situation in Israel (in bold so people don't get confused) because it may help people make decisions about European (or other) travel. What Israel is doing is likely to be indicative of the near future in other places. Tourism is a very big industry, especially for Christian religious tours, and April is one of the biggest months so our economy is going to take a huge hit.

As of this morning, we have 39 confirmed cases. 38 cases are traceable to foreign visitors or Israelis returning from foreign trips. 1 patient is in serious condition after driving a tour group from Greece carrying the virus.

El Al is still flying . . . to Europe and the US but according to a friend who's a flight attendant, they are just bringing back Israelis from abroad. All these folks who've been in these European countries: Austria, Germany, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, San Marino, Andorra, or Switzerland are required to self-quarantine for 14 days (oddly Greece is not on the list, though there were Greek tourists here with the virus and an Israeli embassy staff in Athens is ill with the virus). The government is expected to announce soon that all people arriving from Europe must self-quarantine. It's a subject of great speculation whether that will be broadened to the US as the number of cases there continues to increase.

Posted by
3 posts

My wife and I are scheduled for an RS Ireland tour in mid-May. We've only paid the down-payment so far, full payment due by 3/17. Have not booked flights yet, either, we've been waiting to see what direction this is going.

And it's not looking good. May seems a long way off, and yet right around the corner. We're strongly thinking of just eating the down-payment and cancelling before we're out many thousands more. Ugh, very frustrating, we were really looking forward to this, our 30th-anniversary celebration.

Posted by
4498 posts

^^^ Talk to the RS Tour people direct with your concerns and options. Do not just skip the payment.

Posted by
329 posts

I'm posting about the situation in Israel

My brother, who lives in Israel, is under quarantine for 9/10 more days, because he flew back from England and changed planes in Vienna, which was put on the blacklist after he arrived back in Israel.

He is allowed to go out for walks in a secluded area near his house but otherwise he needs to stay inside and have meals delivered to his door and trash picked up there. He is not happy about it but he is complying.

What I hope most people with some maturity will understand is that the quarantines are not necessarily for their own benefit but to protect others around them. To those of us who never served in the armed forces, we are rarely called upon to perform such altruistic duties. I'm sure there will be many people trying to evade quarantines - think of how many people lie to try to get out of jury duty or who cheat on their taxes!

Posted by
13891 posts

That sounds odd. The Ministry of Health website specifically exempts from quarantine people who only changed planes in Austria. Maybe he left the airport for a short time? Or misunderstood the guidance?

The 14-day self-quarantine for all people arriving from foreign countries (including visitors) is to go into effect on Thursday evening. . . . probably delayed because today and tomorrow are holidays here (Purim).

Posted by
3 posts

Douglas, yes of course, I will formally cancel with them once we finalize the decision. I would not leave them hanging. But I'm assuming my deposit is gone, unless they eventually cancel that trip as well.

As for quarantines, I actually wouldn't mind it. A 2-week vacation where I can't leave and no one can come see me? I think I'd be ok with that! I have enough movies, games and reading material to keep me occupied. And I can catch up on some naps with my 3 dogs.

ETA: That assumes I'm quarantined at home. Being quarantined in some middlin' hotel in Dublin where I can't even go to the pubs would be torture!

Posted by
573 posts

Take Douglas' advice. I would not assume your deposit is gone
.

Posted by
1834 posts

I am not the decision maker (obviously) for the RS Tours ........... but SEEMS they MIGHT allow you to keep your deposit on deposit with them for a tour at a future time.....even next year. Seems a reasonable way to handle the situation, but again...not the decision maker.

Posted by
449 posts

Any thoughts on why the French government is holding off declaring a level 3 for COVID-19? My biggest problem, is getting there, then they decide that's the level, and lots of events/places close. I would rather be home, and deal with a ghost town, than in France, stuck in an apt for goodness knows how long. Sigh.

Posted by
3 posts

The language in the deposit agreement would seem to indicate that the deposit is gone, unless they cancel that particular tour (there are other exceptions such as illness and death). Given the overall situation I suppose they might refund it or credit towards another trip, but I'm not counting on it. And that's ok. I'd rather be out $800 than $5k for everything else. We'll be back!

Posted by
5300 posts

Level 3 for France is coming. Within days. Maybe even tomorrow.

I don’t know why you would wait for it to be officially announced when it is absolutely coming.

(Today the authorities announced more than 500 new cases over yesterday.) It is coming, there is no question.

Posted by
10648 posts

Wow!!! Thats amazing. They are going to jump level 2 and go right to level 3? Pretty amazing. I guess they are expecting the 1700 cases in France to match the 6000 in Italy pretty quickly.

But we heard it here first! Great Forum.

Lets hope when the draw the quarantine boundaries in France they are a little sneakier than the Italians. The Italians let the cat out of the bag and a lot of the people who feared being trapped in the quarantine made there way out before it became official. But just the healthy ones. The sick ones stayed.

Posted by
1036 posts

CNN is reporting that 170 people attended a Biogen conference in Massachusetts. Dinner was included as well as a cocktail party. Now 70 of the 170 have the virus. Many attended other conferences around the country before they knew they were infected. It is time to wake up that this is a very contagious virus. Should we be traveling to other countries right now? Let’s be smart and wait before we travel. Instead of “Keep on Traveling” the new slogan should be “Postpone Traveling”,

Posted by
127 posts

Switzerland is reporting over 600 cases and four deaths.

https://www.thelocal.ch/20200311/coronavirus-cases-approach-650-as-virus-spreads-to-almost-all-swiss-cantons

Edited to add: The Biogen meeting in Boston took place on Feb 26-27, when coronavirus in Massachusetts wasn't on anyone's radar. Here's a link to the Biogen situation:

https://www.nbcboston.com/news/coronavirus/boston-biogen-meeting-coronavirus-warning/2089438/

Seriously folks, stop traveling--anywhere.

Posted by
1834 posts

Here's the link to the story yosemite1 referenced:

https://www.nbcboston.com/news/coronavirus/boston-biogen-meeting-coronavirus-warning/2089438/

A resulting case is mentioned in the story for Tennessee. The first case in Williamson Co. south of Nashville is a man who was reported to have flown to-fro Boston Logan. Date of conference seem match up for when symptoms would have likely developed and case was announced in the media. The resulting numbers for Boston cases traced to the conference is significant.

Posted by
484 posts

I live in MA about 40 miles from Boston. We woke up to learn our Gov Baker has declared a State of Emergency for the entire state. All non essential travel is asked to be canceled for now. Colleges are closing like dominos and going to online classes. Many work environments had already gone to teleconferencing and work from home. Our shelves already have no sanitizer or wipes.
The case numbers continued to jump since our first case on Feb 1st, they were all related to travel to Asia or Europe. Then the Biogen outbreak as people are calling it occurred. Our border states all have cases since February related to travel and they continue to rise.

I am scheduled for RSSpain May 10. Spain’s cases have grown In two weeks from 15 to 1240 as of today. Nine Americans are quarantined in a hotel in Costa Del Sol, about 110 miles south of Seville. One tourist who became sick is now hospitalized. They think the group was exposed by an Italian tour guide. Schools in Madrid, the Basque Country, and in La Rioja.

With the WHO declaring a pandemic today things are looking grim for non essential travel.

Posted by
484 posts

I was on Spain embassy website which led me to a cdc Coronavirus Europe website.
They listed all EU now at Level 3, asking non essential travelers to not travel right now. It didn’t say a deadline or for how many days.

Posted by
16545 posts

No, it's not the entire EU (though certainly most of it). It's the Schengen Zone.

Posted by
5300 posts

The Dutch government announced today that effective tomorrow, they are closing all museums and calling off all sporting events, theater, etc — any gatherings of more than 100 people — through March 31.

Here in France, authorities will close all schools — from pre-school up through university — as of Monday, with no defined end date for the closures.

France has been in Stage 2 since 2/29, I am not sure what jumping to Stage 3 would be when they have been in Stage 2 for two weeks now.

Posted by
11683 posts

I'm sad that so many posts today are about not going somewhere. When I'm not actually traveling, I like to live vicariously through others' travel plans.

Posted by
5300 posts

They are going to jump level 2 and go right to level 3?

Nope. They went to level 2 on February 29 and went to level 3 tonight.

I was off by two days in my projection of when it might happen. Oops.

Posted by
16545 posts

This tweet is very simple: It shows the (1.5) obituary pages in the Bergamo, Italy, newspaper on February 9 and the (10) obituary pages in the same newspaper on March 13. As the pages are flipped, notice the pictures. Lots of people's mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents there.

https://twitter.com/davcarretta/status/1238791068071661568

Posted by
10648 posts

Kim, would have been much better and more appropriate to celebrate if you had been wrong.

Posted by
5300 posts

State Department publishes Level 4 Travel Advisory:

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.

Posted by
3036 posts

At home in Colorado after an almost 2-week trip in London. Boy, did things change, especially in the final couple days. British Airways simply canceled the March 18 direct return flight to Denver, sending an e-mail notice on the 16th, but no offer of any alternative. How to get home?!? After making many phone calls, including one where the British-sounding employee at the US embassy just hung up on me, I finally got thru to a human at BA, who scheduled us on a trip to Denver, with very a tight connection in Dallas to an American Airlines plane. The “coach” section was almost completely full, but business class had only 3 people - virtually empty.

The experience at the Dallas airport was miserable - the first form we were given and filled out, regarding where we’d been and where we were going, turned out to be the “wrong” form, so after we finally were given the “right” form and completed it, we were allowed to proceed. They let 12 of us off the plane at a time, met by masked and gloved people, who gave us new, “priority” boarding passes. Never screened for fever, and this still ate up a lot of the connection time. A couple in the row in front of us and a couple just behind us on the plane were also booked for the Denver flight. None of them made it, but we luckily did, after more ordeals.

Asymptomatic (then, and 24 hours later, still), we made the long trek to the almost totally empty Global Entry/passport control area. After that, and getting wrong directions twice from different airport personnel, we got our carry-on-only luggage and ourselves to a particularly unpleasant screening by mean security people. They had no protective equipment on, and may not have had any idea we’d been on a plane from the U.K. that was loaded with people who’d come from many places. No one ever looked at the bright orange “priority - tight connection” sleeve containing our newest boarding passes, no matter that they said “TSA Pre-Check,” no matter that we had no restricted or non-conforming items in our bags or on our persons. After getting unnecessarily yelled at trying to just get thru (no problems leaving Denver on the way over, none in London coming back), complying with every order barked at us - the only passengers there at the time, so maybe they were bored and needed some entertainment- we finally got thru. A young woman who got to Security as we were leaving was now getting yelled at, so that must be a Texas greeting, y’all. Hope to never have to endure the horrible Dallas Airport ever again. And it was empty, except for that handful of airport personnel. At least there wasn’t a huge crowd, blocking aisles or delaying the long, long, skyline train to our gate.

We hoped those other people from the London plane would make it, too, but sadly, no. Maybe they got held up filling out a new form, or waiting at baggage claim (carry-on makes a difference with tight connections), or dealing with the shouting TSA bullies. We’re now home, in self-quarantine. A dear friend went to the supermarket for us, and brought our order to our door. We trust our precautions will keep us and everyone else healthy and safe. Waiting for the quarantine to end, then we’ll see what happens. Hope the Scotland/Scandinavia trip in July is still on, and the September Rome trip, as well. Hope the sickness and deaths cease, worldwide. Follow protocols, and do what you need to do for your safety. May your next travels be rewarding.

Posted by
3036 posts

Thank you, Kristen. Lots of people have it a lot worse, but it was stressful nonetheless, and it was helpful (therapeutic) to post this here - somewhere.

Posted by
3305 posts

Cyn, with regard to "...particularly unpleasant...mean security people", there is an old Latin saying. "Illegitimi non carborundum". Shouldn't be too hard to translate.

Posted by
1827 posts

Welcome home, Can. Happy to hear you made it ok in spite of all the setbacks. I can only imagine the frustration level.

Posted by
10149 posts

The situation seems relatively clear:
"The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19."
No matter how much we love travel, travel to Europe or elsewhere, we're not going anywhere anytime soon.

Posted by
4 posts

Unfortunately, this is not good news for the entire world. However, we must to ack a responsible citizen and stay at home. Because this is the only approach to fight against this pandemic (COVID-19).

Posted by
10648 posts

Unfortunately, this is not good news for the entire world. However, we must to ack a responsible citizen and stay at home for the time being. Because this is the only approach to fight against this pandemic.

Posted by
10648 posts

The terror is impacting the Blood Banks. The injured still need blood. With everyone hunkered down shivering in their boots the blood banks are going dry. If you have the means, go donate today.

Posted by
1061 posts

When my wife called our local blood bank the first appointment she could get was 2 weeks in the future. They were booked solid. The situation is not bad everywhere.

Posted by
1862 posts

Yes, please donate blood. They are encouraging donating for the weeks ahead to ensure a stable supply throughout the Pandemic and potential blood shortages in the future. Not only are donations essential for trauma patients but also surgeries, chronic illnesses, blood disorders and cancer. A single blood donation can give one to 3 patients a better outcome-a chance at survival. "It's the gift of life." Thank you.

Posted by
16545 posts

Bob: "When my wife called our local blood bank the first appointment she could get was 2 weeks in the future. They were booked solid. The situation is not bad everywhere."

Unfortunately, the lag time for blood-donation appointments does not necessarily mean the situation isn't bad. I had to wait about 10 days myself, and I was greeted by very grateful Red Cross personnel and volunteers. As I understand it, a large part of our blood supply (I think the figure was over 50% but am not certain) normally comes from blood drives organized at off-site locations, frequently at workplaces. That source of blood has almost totally dried up; virtually the entire burden is currently falling on the Red Cross donation centers.

Furthermore, the requirements for social distancing mean that many donation sites are probably having to reduce the number of donors they handle at one time. I see that my Red Cross donation center has increased its hours somewhat and is now open seven days a week.

Posted by
1862 posts

Thanks acraven for continuing to share updates on blood donations. I will also add that our local blood donor centers encourage to rebook at the time of your appointment to ensure blood availability moving forward. To acraven's point- mobile blood drives have been paused in our community. It's by appointment only at the present time. Consequently it's become even more critical to keep up with donations.

There are many reasons to donate moving forward. In addition WA State is partnering with a research study of people who have recovered from COVID-19 for at least 28 days. A blood donation will provide medical researchers with critical information used to advance the development of potential lifesaving therapies and treatments for people affected by COVID-19.