There are at least four effective methods for eliminating COVID-19 as an everyday threat.
- Use travel restrictions and quarantines to restrict entry into areas you want to safeguard.
- Use stay-at-home and masking regulations to prevent person-to-person spread.
- Use technology to identify those who may be infected.
- Use survey testing and vaccinations to provide long-term solutions.
In this week’s column, I’ll cover the first two of these topics. Next week, I’ll take on the other two.
1. Use travel restrictions and quarantines to restrict entry into areas you want to safeguard.
When medical facilities threaten to become overwhelmed, one of the most effective means of slowing down the spread is by restricting entry. Right now, Japan, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand prohibit entry into their countries by nearly all non-residents; and even residents must undergo strict 10–15-day quarantines before they can travel and meet others.
Also, residents are not permitted to leave the country except for specific exceptions such as receiving medical treatment. Business and vacation travel is sharply restricted. Quarantining is treated as a very serious matter. Violations typically bring about fines starting at about $1,000. A few U.S. jurisdictions now punish the flouting of quarantines severely. Hawaii recently arrested a couple, which can result in as much as a year’s imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
But in some other states that have enacted quarantine requirements, such as New York and California, enforcement is lax, and penalties aren’t always stipulated. Some Caribbean and Asian nations monitor travelers’ locations via their cell phones, GPS devices, or require daily check-ins from the quarantine locations.
Faced with a daunting shortage of ICU beds and staff in Northern and Southern California, agencies have just taken the following actions:
- San Francisco County is requiring visitors to the Bay Area arriving from more than 150 miles away to quarantine for 10 days. Hotels are barred from accepting out-of-state registrations for less than the 10-day quarantine period.
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and San Jose International Airport (SJC) are requiring all arriving passengers who are not in transit to quarantine for 10 days.
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is requiring travelers to complete a form to submit their contact tracing information and to acknowledges the state’s quarantine regs.
However, none of these actions appear to be linked to verifications that the travelers are in quarantine or sanctions if they violate the requirements.
This probably makes them as effective as the federal and state Stay-at-Home warnings over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the CDC pronouncements that people shouldn’t get on airplanes. These admonishments were “paper tigers.” They weren’t accompanied by any enforcement or penalties, and airlines advertised how safe they were to fly.
A million people flew each day in the week leading up to Christmas. Deaths in Southern California have increased to one every 10 minutes, and early January will be even worse.
This makes our actions, vis-à-vis flying to-and-from Great Britain, even more unfathomable. Faced with a new strain of the coronavirus, which is 70% more infectious, why haven’t we cut off flights to and from Great Britain as more than 40 other nations have done?
Or, at least, why haven’t we put in the protections that some Caribbean nations use to protect themselves from American visitors?
- Test 3-5 days before flying.
- Rapid Test before guests board the plane.
- Quarantine everyone for 10 days; or release them after five days if they test negative for a third time.
- Require every flyer to buy a COVID-19 insurance policy to cover all medical, quarantine, and medical evacuation costs if they become infected. A few airlines are now providing these insurance policies gratis.
Instead, the CDC merely requires a single test, 3-5 days ahead of flying, conveniently forgetting that even the approved tests can have error rates of over 10% if they’re only administered only once. Compromising on these measures makes everyone complicit in their failure, and inevitably will result in further increases in deaths and suffering.
2. Use stay-at-home and masking regulations to prevent person-to-person spread.
Perhaps stay-at-home and masking regulations have been “sold” the wrong way. Instead of emphasizing personal protection and keeping others safe, perhaps we should say that this is the only way me can provide others with affordable, effective healthcare. This clears the way to attaching severe penalties to violations and removing personal choice from the equation. Just as with speeding or arson, this permits substantial fines to be levied if health regulations are violated. This is what happens in most other nations.
The mother of a friend in Italy is wary of driving her car during one of their “lock downs” since, if she goes more than 10 kilometers from her home, she can be fined €400-€1000— even if she’s driving within the same city in which she lives.
Permitting law enforcement to ignore COVID-19 regulations, which is what has happened in several large California jurisdictions, should as unthinkable as permitting drivers to go 100 mph on public roads or set fire to a building they own, and should result in the police chief or sheriff’s immediate removal from office.
“It’s too expensive to do this!”, you say? Use the fines collected from violators to finance the programs and support local businesses. We’ve enforced parking regulations this way for decades – relying on civilian parking bureaus and private tow trucks to make the system work. And we’ve used traffic cams (usually privately owned and operated) to prevent speeding at a net profit to local governments.
“It violates our personal freedoms!” Tell this to the survivors of the COVID-19 victims, who die every 10 minutes in Southern California right now.
This is not rocket science. We have millions of examples, from around the globe, of how people have been using federal, state, and local regulations, enforcement, and penalties to eliminate infections – at least for a while. When conditions improve, they loosen many regulations; if they worsen, they tighten them again.
Most other nations haven’t relied solely on people’s “good intentions” Experience has shown that enlightened policies won’t go anywhere without consistent enforcement. As we’ve already noted, we’ve used “meter maids,” traffic cams, radar guns, and fines for years to promote safe driving. Why shouldn’t pandemics be worthy of similar measures?
As local business leaders with a global perspective, travel advisors have a unique opportunity to influence their communities. If you’re like most of us, your livelihood depends on how quickly COVID-19 is eliminated as a major threat to travel. Vaccines will help, but they can’t do it all.
The nonprofit, Consumer Reports©, has just released an article you may want to pass onto your clients: Healthy Habits We’ve Learned from COVID-19. If you would like a copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and use the subject, “Healthy Habits.” Also, use Share Your Thoughts below to provide your views on the content of this article and suggest how Part II can be improved.
Dr Steve Frankel and his wife have sailed on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships on more than 40 cruises. For the past six months, he has been writing a weekly column, Point-to-Point, for Travel Research Online (TRO) that’s shared with more than 70,000 travel advisors and industry leaders. Steve is the CEO of two companies: Travel Intelligence Associates (TIA), and Cruises & Cameras, LLC (C&C). TIA provides writing, consulting and White Box services. C&C specializes in small ship cruises and is associated with LUXE Travel (a FROSCH company) and the Signature Travel Network. Steve has a doctorate in Educational Research and Marketing from Indiana University, He is one of the first travel advisors to complete a five- course sequence of courses in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. In his former life, he was the director of several organizations specializing in public policy studies. He’s the author of 13 books and a former Contributing Editor of The Washingtonian magazine. His email address is Steve@CruisesAndCameras.com.