George Nicon Andritsakis
Coronavirus: Cutting Through The Media's Fearmongering and Hype
I won't claim to be an expert on the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, or anywhere near one. What I am however, is the foremost Genius when it comes to Travel, and a traveler who just HAPPENS to have a compromised immune system. I won't post my opinions, but instead, just the straight up facts and what to do while you are in transit, so by all means, KEEP TRAVELING!
Let me just preface by saying this. I am a very frequent traveler (now that my doctors have given me a clean-ish bill of health and cleared me for takeoff once again), who has a very compromised immune system thanks to the awful Chron's Disease. I travel for work, I travel for fun, I travel for the sake of travel. You have to PRY me off my flights (sometimes literally if I'm in a certain regional jet). The airports of the world are my second home. But enough about me, onto the topic dujour.
COVID-19 is the 19th strain of coronavirus, and differs from other strains in the way it is treated. See, we humans basically live and deal with certain strains of coronavirus day in and day out. They cause certain VERY common upper respiratory issues and help bring about the common cold. The way the -19 strain differs is that this can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa, much like MERS or SARS (remember that little bug about a decade or so back?). What the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) is calling for in combating this virus is that those affected by it definitely stay home (as you would with the common cold or any other highly contagious communicable virus) until you are well again. That means you are free of fever WITHOUT having to take fever reducing medications, your symptoms are pretty much gone (even cough, although some of us do have dry coughs thanks to other maladies going on inside us), AND you have tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimen collections at least 24 hours apart each.
According to the mass market news outlets, you hear these wild stories about people all over buying up and stockpiling face masks, toilet paper, bottled water, and just about anything else they think they need to fight off COVID-19. Some celebrities (in their infinite wisdom, of course) have started coming out with their own lines of haute couture masks, all to make a quick buck. The CDC has come out and said the masks do NOTHING to prevent transmission of -19. The masks should only be worn by those who are currently afflicted and fighting the virus. Keep your wallets shut, folks.
"But George, what do we do!?"
First and foremost, calm yourself. Panic has spread so far and wide so fast thanks to the garbage being spewed by social media, the internet, and the media isn't helping one bit. Nor will they. They are looking for ratings. Here's what you do:
Wash your hands - scrub those paws down with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (especially out in public). You'd think this would be basic common sense, right? If by some odd chance water isn't available, and you just happen to have some on you, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. That'll kill just about anything on your hands. Also, avoid touching your face, eyes, or nose with unwashed hands.
Like I said, you'd think this was basic stuff we learned as kids growing up. Right? Seems pretty simple, really. Anywho, I'm not hear to point fingers or lay blame.
What I Have Seen In My Recent Travels
I just returned from a trip involving a connection at the huge Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. When I arrived during my outbound journey from Las Vegas, I looked around the terminals I was in. There were a bevy of folks wearing masks and people were generally staying out of people's way a bit more than normal. At the gate you didn't see the normal crowding of the gate lice (those passengers waiting to be the first to board, either by status, class of service, or divine intervention), the older folks who usually pre-board were in their allotted places close to the jetway door, and the various other passengers were patiently waiting further away. The funniest (although really foretelling) instance I saw was passing Natalie's Candy Jar. I was just passing by and heard this little old Asian lady (I swear I'm not stereotyping, she really was a little old Asian lady) who started coughing. I have never seen a store clear out of people faster than I saw the exodus from there after the coughing fit. Turns out all she needed was a drink of water. Hysteria run amok, I tell you.
On my return trip through DFW 2 weeks later I saw a completely different story. No one was wearing masks, but I did see the hand sanitizers being put to good use, and in the restrooms people were spending extra time washing their hands. Heck, even the gate live had started to congregate once again, blocking up access to the jetway. See, common sense is starting to take place...I hope.
About the only place I would avoid right now are the cruise lines. Now, don't get me wrong, cruising is a hell of a way to travel, but cruise ships are notorious incubators for airborne illnesses. You have thousands of people milling about in very tight and confining spaces, bacteria and viruses breed in that kind of environment. If you can (and most cruise lines are good with this right now), hold off on cruising until this "crisis" boils down to less than a dull roar. There are several cruiseliners right now in quarantine around the globe with infected passengers onboard.
So keep traveling, keep going about your daily lives. You're fine, as long as you remember the basics of general hygeine.