Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel and Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1991 film The Sheltering Sky came to mind as I considered clicking the purchase button for airline tickets to Amsterdam in June. The story centers on Port Moresby and his wife Kit, a married couple originally from New York who travel to Algeria, accompanied by their friend Tunner.
Tunner: You couldn’t leave tomorrow even if you wanted to. Can’t get any information about how to get out of this place. No buses, not even a fruit truck. Nobody speaks English. Anybody for a nightcap?
Bottom line is Port Moresby dies from typhoid while in a remote village in North Africa. His death leaves his wife Kit stranded as a stranger in a strange land.
In January I originally planned to be in North Italy this week in March on travel from Rome to Zurich.
Coronavirus exploded in Italy over the past two weeks and convinced me that travel over the next few months is simply not worth the price, at any great travel deal price.
Italy as of March 9 has over 9,172 confirmed cases and 463 deaths.
Only 17 days since the virus outbreak in Italy to more than 100 deaths per day.
The latest from the European centre for disease prevention and control is that 14,890 cases have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK:
United Kingdom (321),
Czech Republic (40),
As of 10 March, 532 deaths have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK: Italy (464), France (30), Spain (28), United Kingdom (5), Netherlands (3) and Germany (2).
The data coming out of Italy over the weekend is what created severe doubt in my mind that we would be able to travel through seven countries around Europe in June and July without restrictions, flight changes, cancellations or quarantines. The recurring thought plaguing me was self-identifying as a Port Moresby-type traveler seeking to find places that take me away from this American cocoon. Contracting coronavirus in Europe, possibly followed by weeks of sickness or even death would fuck-up my well-planned travel itinerary. Needless to say, my wife would be pissed off at me.
Think about this!
As a loyalty program analyst I enjoy playing with numbers.
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
Based on CDC flu data for 2019-2020 I came up with these statistics to make an elementary comparison of Covid-19 to the seasonal influenza virus Trump makes comparisons to for downplaying the severity of the outbreak as seen in his tweet.
Since the data above is a significant range estimate, I calculated a rough comparative analysis of what the numbers look like for Covid-19 based on the limited data in the public realm.
If Covid-19 were to infect 49 million people over the next 5 months and 10% needed hospitalization, there would be 4.9 million hospitalizations compared to 620,000 flu hospitalizations. If 5% needed hospitalization, then 2.5 million hospitalizations, many needing ventilators to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome. There are currently about 800,000 beds in U.S. hospitals.
If 2% death rate among Covid-19 infections, then about 1,000,000 deaths would result in USA alone, primarily among the elderly population 65 and older.
Covid-19 has the potential to severely impact our health system in the USA.
The Director for the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Robert R Redfield, MD is testifying to Congress as I write this piece. He just stated his opinion right now is air travel passengers from Europe are the greatest contributor currently spreading Covid-19 to new areas around the USA.
I have read articles from several travel bloggers over the past week stating they are not concerned for their own health and have no plans to stop travel. Youth and hubris create a sense of invincibility to sickness. Mitigation of Covid-19 spread is not in the forefront of thought among travel addicts.
My current 3-month travel plan is seeing other parts of the world through Amazon Prime and Netflix films. I am currently enjoying a Polish TV series Ultraviolet.
My next ticketed flight is San Francisco to Copenhagen in July. Time will tell if that trip happens.