Last week, the CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned in May that the U.S. was entering a “pandemic of the unvaxed.” She didn’t say this lightly. Here are the COVID-19 infection rates in the United States, where the Delta Variant is responsible for about half the cases and is just gaining strength; and from the United Kingdom (U.K.), where the Delta Variant arrived a few months earlier and now accounts for nearly all of the cases.
These data are the best predictor of what’s in store for us here in the United States this fall. Our graph for this September will probably look like the U.K. graph for June.
When the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the world’s health systems in terms of quality, France usually is at the top of the heap. Until June, France and the United States were running neck-and-neck when it came to vaccinations. A little more than 40% of the residents in both nations were fully vaxed, and the bulk of the unvaxed was under 35. Then something dramatic happened. President Emmanuel Macron of France went on TV last week and did not limit himself to platitudes and dire warnings. He told viewers that they could forget their care-free summer vacations if they weren’t fully vaxed by this August.
He said that if people can’t show proof that they are either fully vaxed or tested in the last 48 hours, they won’t be permitted to enter restaurants, bars, or shopping malls. They also won’t be allowed to travel by train or on domestic or international flights. These regulations will also most likely affect your clients who are going to France who are unvaxed.
Macron said that all the vax tests would, starting in August, be sold rather than given away free. Since France nearly closes down for vacations in August, this means that all the unvaxed will have to be tested every two days at their own expense on their holidays. He also warned unvaxed healthcare workers, and those in “some unnamed occupations,” they will not be permitted to work in the fall if they aren’t fully vaccinated.
That did it. Within a day, 1.3 million people had signed up to be vaxed. A week later, the total is reportedly over 4 million.
So far, most people support the mandates, even if some think Macron went too far. The Associated Press quotes a 22-year old French law student as saying:
“I’m getting vaccinated because I want to have a social life and go on holidays,” law student Marius Chavenon, 22, said, adding: “I don’t think vaccination should be compulsory. We live in France; we should be able to do what we want.”
The government will enforce the regulations by issuing all residents a “Pass Sanitaire,” a machine-readable vaccine passport with a QR code. New York State and Los Angeles County are now giving similar passes away free, and many other regions will probably follow suit quickly.
The Associated Press article also quotes France’s Minister of Health, Oliver Veran, as saying, “The question is: It’s lockdown or the health pass.” He also welcomed the renewed vaccine interest, saying, “That’s thousands of lives saved.”
The COVID-19 surge is caused by the Delta Variant spreading quickly among unvaxed Americans. If you compare that with the U.S. and U.K. graphs, the “Pandemic of the Unvaxed” is just gathering speed. According to many health officials, it will be at its worst this fall when students return to school, and the weather causes people to spend more time indoors.
By then, travel advisors may once again be canceling cruises, flights, and hotel stays. Probably the best way of avoiding this is by following France’s lead. The French are just emerging from a nine-month lockdown, and they are probably more dependent on tourism, bars, and restaurants remaining open than most areas of the United States. They are taking the long-term view: Better fight the battle over getting everyone vaccinated now than endure closings, hospitalizations, and deaths for the next few years.
We started July slightly ahead of France in the percentage of people that are vaccinated. Within a month, we will likely be far behind. We in the travel and hospitality industries must assume part of the blame. Air travel is one of the most effective ways of spreading COVID-19 from place to place. We need to inform prospective clients, in the strongest terms, that they are jeopardizing themselves and their loved ones if they travel unvaxed. People who have been vaxed can still be reinfected, but they are much less likely to be hospitalized or die. Perhaps we should require anyone whose unvaxed to sign a waiver saying that we’ve fully informed them of the danger before booking them?
The way we’re going now, there will be fewer places in both in the U.S. and offshore, where Americans will be welcome—especially if they’re coming from infection hotspots. We need to warn our clients that vaccine passports will be required in many places, even if they are not yet required by law.
The stock market is a “leading indicator” of the business conditions companies will face in the future. The stock prices of the “Big Three” cruise lines have dropped by more than 10% since July 1st, and the airline stocks are doing even worse. This probably means that the “smart money” knows the other shoe is likely to drop. Unless nearly everyone who can do so gets vaxed, the surge of illness may cripple the travel industry once again.
The “French Solution” needs to be adopted, or at least openly discussed by the feds, states and cities. Choosing whether to get vaccinated is fine, but not when it endangers so many others.
Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. He writes a weekly column, Point-to-Point, for Travel Research Online (TRO) that’s read by more than 80,000 travel advisors and industry leaders. Steve is the founder of Cruises & Cameras Travel Services, LLC. He has been recognized as a “2021 Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and a “Travel Expert Select “by the Signature Travel Network. His specialties are luxury small-ship cruises and COVID-19 safety measures, and has a doctorate in Educational Research with minors in Marketing and Quantitative Business Analysis. He’s also earned a Certificate in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he managed qualitative and quantitative research in the private & public sectors. He’s a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has written 13 books and hundreds of articles. His email address is email@example.com.