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Coronavirus Travel Concerns: What You Need to Know

Information accurate as of March 5, 2020

To call COVID-19 a disruption to the travel industry (and the global economy) is an understatement.  Since its origin in Wuhan, China, late last year in 2019, the virus (aka novel coronavirus) has become a global epidemic that the World Health Organization has called a “public health emergency of international concern.”

To date, people have tested positive for the virus in 73 countries and counting, including the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new Travel Health Notices to China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea; and travel plans are, not to sugarcoat it - is in a state of disarray.

If you have a trip booked in the coming days, weeks, or months, it’s hard not to feel some hesitancy and indecision towards going on that vacation.  Maybe you're generally healthy and not as concerned as potentially getting coronavirus, but are more concerned on being stuck and quarantined overseas or on a cruise ship that could have a major impact on your health, work schedules, kids school schedule, to name a few things that come to mind.

With a global health crisis comes uncertainty, both at home and abroad and fears of the contracting the virus are valid, as well as getting stuck in quarantine while traveling overseas.  Ultimately, choosing to go forth with your travel plans is a personal call that should be based on accurate information from credible sources, but how do you sort through all of the information from the news, social media, tv, to make the right decision for you and your family?

What You Need to Know About Coronavirus
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken up all of the headlines in the news and keeping up with all of the media reports can leave you in a daze.  While it is concerning hearing about Coronvirus and all of the media reports - what can you do if you have upcoming travel plans and who should you trust for accurate information?

I added some links to my recommendations below for accurate information, but the handy guide below from the CDC is a good place to start.

Where Should I Get the Latest Information From?
Bear in mind that the media is focusing a lot of attention on the Coronavirus, as they likely should be, but you'd be better served by not focusing on the headlines 24/7, as they are designed to grab attention and drive clicks to their websites.  Read up on information from medical professionals and authorities in the medical field to get a true picture of the situation.

I am not a Health Professional, but I recommend checking the following sources for the most accurate and up-to-date information, before heading online to major media outlets that can sometimes sensationalize the news or not provide all of the details, in my opinion:
Tips on Minimizing Travel Risks
The first thing I recommend is to not panic, stay positive, because this too shall pass soon enough.  The world's best scientists are working on vaccines and learning more about the virus everyday to help contain it, as much as possible around the world.  In other words, don’t get impulsive about changing summer travel plans just yet.  I'm personally taking a wait-and-see approach for my own family travel plans, as the situation is evolving rapidly and things could look very different in a month or two.

If you are traveling to a destination that isn't on the CDC "Do Not Travel" List or "Level 3 Warning", that recommends to avoid all non-essential travel, then I recommend the following, at minimum:
  • Travel responsibly by checking CDC warnings
  • Be extra diligent about your travel hygiene, i.e., wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face!  
  • Be prepared and have plans for medical or travel insurance
  • Ask yourself what happens if you were to get quarantined, 
  • What supplies or medicine you'd need
  • Enroll in the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
    • Register your trip with the nearest international embassy or consulate so you receive safety alerts or be contacted in the event of an emergency. 

I know you've likely heard this, but Coronavirus is a huge concern since it is new and spreading across the globe, but Influenza (Flu) is still a very large concern for most people, if not the bigger concern this time of the year.  There are countless people who get the flu every year (and sometimes have complications and die from it), but those cases don't seem to be reported on as much in the media.  I just took my youngest child in for his 3-year old checkup and discussed Coronavirus with our pediatrician and she echoed just that - yes Coronavirus is a growing concern, but the regular Flu we see yearly has infected millions of people, killed approximately a hundred children and thousands of others this year alone.

Travel is meant to be fun, educational, relaxing, among many other things, and if you're going to be worried and anxious the entire time during your trip then maybe you do cancel plans in the short term for peace of mind, but be ready (when hopefully) things slow down and the recovery begins.

Personally, we have a few trips planned this year and I'm watching and assessing all of the risks and will make the best informed decision I can on whether to cancel or go on these trips.  I've seen a lot when it comes to traveling, especially with young children, and plan on being prepared the best I can for our future travel plans.

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