The Truth About How Wuhan Coronavirus Affects the Way I Travel

People ask me how the Wuhan Coronavirus affects the way I travel. Will I cancel travel because of the Coronavirus? Here’s the truth about how Coronavirus affects me as a traveler and how I use the Wuhan Coronavirus tracker.

Should I cancel travel because of the Wuhan Coronavirus?

Author looks over edge of Wall Street Journal with large photo of Wuhan Coronavirusworker putting on Hazmat suit
Front page news: Coronavirus Outbreak Declared A Global-Health Emergency

This weekend at a party someone said, “The Wuhan Coronavirus has spread to Hawaii now.” I checked my Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases tracker by Johns Hopkins and saw nothing to back up that report.*

“Will they cancel our conference in Sicily?” lamented a fellow travel blogger on the conference’s Facebook page. Should we cancel travel because of the Coronavirus?

“I’m pressing on, regardless,” I replied. Nevertheless, I checked the Johns Hopkins tracker to monitor the situation in Italy.

Should I wear a mask?

Unstoppable Stacey sits in airplane seat with hand in air as is signaling "I'm not sure if I need a mask for Wuhan Coronavirus protection."
Cancel travel because of the Coronavirus? I didn’t cancel this Jan 27 flight.

“Should I wear a mask?” I wondered boarding a flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix on January 27. “I don’t want to scare other passengers, but I want to keep myself safe.” At that point, I knew nothing about the Johns Hopkins website coronavirus tracker. Did others cancel travel because of the Coronavirus? The plane did not seem full.

That week at Bible study in Munds Park, another stated, “The Wuhan Coronavirus affects the very young and old.” “Not, really,” I replied. “That’s true for regular flu viruses, but not this one. You probably heard that early on from journalists who hadn’t done their fact-checking.”

The fact is, we’re all talking about the Wuhan Coronavirus and wondering how it will affect travel. We’re pondering, “Should I cancel travel because of the Coronavirus?”

High-profile Traveler Johnny Jet Cancels RTW Trip

After asking his website and Facebook followers, “Should I cancel my trip to Asia?” travel expert Johnny Jet was ‘shocked’ by how many recommended canceling the trip. “Some of the comments were coming from big-time travelers, including executives of Asian airlines,” revealed the high-profile traveler. He canceled his RTW (Round The World) trip “for a number of reasons but primarily to protect my loved ones.”

You Can Track the Spread of Wuhan Coronavirus

Screen shot of Wuhan Coronavirus tracker with map of the world
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE - Copyright 2020 Johns Hopkins University

In a few weeks, I’ll be boarding a plane for Milan and Sicily—that blogger conference mentioned earlier. I’m trying to get all the info I can about the Wuhan Coronavirus before I go. I’m using the fantastic tool that Johnny Jet shared with me: a website with mapping that allows us to see where the Wuhan Coronavirus has spread. You, too, can track the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus with this tool provided by Johns Hopkins University.

Wear the mask, already!

Close up of author with mask to protect her from Wuhan Coronavirus
Unstoppable Stacey dons mask as fellow passengers begin to cough.

I ended up wearing the mask on the Minneapolis to Phoenix flight and my final leg into Flagstaff. But as it turned out, a stomach bug hit me by the time we landed in Flagstaff. Since you typically have the virus before showing symptoms, I had been contagious when I put the mask on.

Consequently, I was protecting others from my germs rather than the other way around. The blessings of irony! Fortunately for me, it was a 48-hour (or so) stomach flu.

Why are we so concerned about Wuhan Coronavirus?

Nils Esterson and Mabel Silverness Esterson (1985-1920) hold their children Ione and Nels. Photo courtesy of Clayton Esterson

Some of us are concerned about the Wuhan coronavirus because other flu epidemics have affected our friends or family members. The 1918 Pandemic Flu, also known as the Spanish Flu, killed 50 million people. My great aunt, Mabel Silverness Esterson, was one of them. Mabel, a mother of two toddlers, was only 25 years old when she died of influenza in Minnesota. The 1918 Flu hit young and middle-aged adults (aged 20-50) as the Wuhan Coronavirus is doing today.

In a CNN interview, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb explained that middle-aged patients have a healthy immune response, but it’s the response to the flu that makes them sick. Release of cytokine, part of the healthy immune response, increases inflammation (to prevent the spread of infection in the body) and it’s that inflammation which makes people sick.

According to what China reported this week, only 2% of Wuhan coronavirus cases are under the age of 20. 60% of cases are aged 30-60, but most deaths are in people over 60, explained Dr. Gottlieb in an interview today. “What you’re seeing is a rather unusual age distribution,” he said.

So what? The flu kills every year – this Coronavirus outbreak is no big deal – or IS it?

The other thing I hear at parties and gatherings, “So what? The flu kills every year – this Corona outbreak is no big deal.” However, coronavirus is more transmissible and looks to have a higher case mortality rate than the typical flu. We’re still early in the event, say the health experts, and we will know more in the days ahead.

Flagstaff Connection

Scientists in Flagstaff are working on a coronavirus test that health experts could use to diagnose the disease. TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute), a biotech company in my neighborhood is working to be part of the solution.

How does Wuhan Coronavirus Affect the Way that I Travel?

World map with countries with travel restrictions designated 'red'- Graphic depiction of Wuhan Coronavirus associated restrictions
Red designates countries with travel restrictions for Chinese citizens or people who have been to China. Courtesy of Wikimedia

So how will coronavirus affect the way that I travel? First, I wash my hands more frequently. I bring hand sanitizer with me and wipe down the tray table at my airplane seat. It’s said that the tray is one of the most germ-bearing pieces of equipment on a plane. 

Next, covering my mouth with the inside of my elbow when I cough or sneeze is mandatory. That’s why I now carry a mask with me. Some say they are not so beneficial, but if I get stuck next to someone who is hacking without covering their mouth, I’ll put it on. That will make me feel better and give me compassion for the cougher. 

As further prevention, I’m also taking a double dose of the turmeric that I take every day, trying to get more sleep and simply distancing myself from sick people when I can.

I’m also watching my Johns Hopkins Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases tracker. Here’s the whole thing in a nutshell:

    • Wash hands frequently
    • Tote hand sanitizer
    • Wipe down tray tables
    • Cover mouth with an inner elbow when coughing or sneezing
    • Carry a hygienic mask
    • Double dose of turmeric
    • Social distancing
    • Watch Johns Hopkins Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases tracker.

I encourage people to travel, and events like the potential Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic are further reasons to go while we can. “Today the world is relatively wide open for travel,” I’ve been known to urge. “We don’t know what tomorrow could bring. We need to travel now while we can.”

 The Wuhan coronavirus has not stopped me from traveling. I am UNSTOPPABLE, afterall. However, I’m not planning to travel to Asia now, but I will weigh the risks as opportunities arise.

Subscribe to Johnny Jet’s website, as I do, to get travel tips right in your email inbox. In the process, check out his interview with UNSTOPPABLE Stacey posted on his website

*Although there are no Coronavirus cases in Hawaii at present, the New York Times reported that Japanese medical experts confirmed that a man and woman in Japan have the virus after the couple returned from vacationing in Hawaii.

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19 thoughts on “The Truth About How Wuhan Coronavirus Affects the Way I Travel”

  1. This just in:
    Italy’s first Coronavirus cases contracted inside Italian borders reported in Lombardy. “For the first time we have moved from cases of importation to cases of local circulation of the virus,” said Giuseppe Ippolito, science director of Italy’s top infectious disease hospital. Lombardy is the administrative region of Italy that includes Milan — my travel destination in 14 days. Some of the cases are hospitalized in Milan.

    Thanks to Sara W. H. – an UNSTOPPABLE Travel community member – for bringing this to my attention. Read the whole article here:
    https://www.ansa.it/english/newswire/english_service/2020/02/21/coronavirus-six-people-infected-in-lombardy-4_4d8c8975-04ba-422d-976a-e397861f3792.html?fbclid=IwAR2pUrfDJwD8HkYOouWDXw3kQrboWkLJ6C6Hx2LOJY2OlPrsy0oHW4lOa0s

    Reply
  2. As Coronavirus cases rise in Italy near Milan, I checked the status of my travel insurance this morning. Yes, I bought travel insurance with my flight so it covers the whole duration of my upcoming trip. I didn’t “drill in” to see if it would cover cost of cancelled tours or accommodations. Will do that later – if need be. BTW, I use Allianz Travel Insurance.

    Reply
  3. It’s fascinating to track. My sons are in Florence today with plans to go to Venice for Carnivale. They just called to say that due to concerns on the ground there they have canceled their trip further north and will.steer clear of the festival crowds.

    Reply
  4. The place I’m staying in Milan said they could move me from the hostel to a private room for the two nights I will be in Milan. That was very kind of them, but I’m reluctant to pay for the upgrade when this trip may be canceled. Coronavirus cases continue to rise in northern Italy. Southern Italy’s first case reported this morning: http://bit.ly/32pvXrm

    What do you think? Should I cancel my trip to MIlan?

    Reply
  5. Insightful! I appreciate all that’s contained in your blog article.

    Even while traveling to Chicago in mid-March I plan to take the precautions you suggested.

    Travel safe!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your comments, Linda. I just learned a new tip from one of my travel writer colleagues: They said to bring a baggie with you on the plane and put your used antibiotic wipes in it after you’ve wiped down the seat tray and arm rest. Have a fun trip to Chi-Town next month.

      Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear about your Grandmother, Anxton. She and my great aunt we two of the 50K people who died of the Spanish flu. Do you have a photo of her? I would love to post it on my blog, if that would be OK. Thanks for being part of the “UNSTOPPABLE” community!

      Reply
  6. UPDATE: American Airlines gave me a travel waiver for Coronavirus conditions in Milan. That enabled me to change my American Airlines flight so I will fly into Rome rather than Milan at a minimal charge ($75).
    However, EasyJet was happy to keep my money when I canceled my Milan to Catania /Palermo to Milan flights. They even kept the extra money I paid for my bags! I will continue to try to get someone to respond to my question, “How do I file for a refund in this unique situation?”
    Today I will cancel my hotel accommodations in Milan – or I may wait to see if Booking.com offers some sort of waiver.
    Even after all these changes and new flights purchased from Rome to Catania, I may still cancel this trip. Dan is worried that I am still sick from my last cold acquired 7 days ago.
    What do YOU think I should do?

    Reply
  7. Hey Stacey – I recently read a friend’s take on a BMC study of surface contamination in airports. In short, there are a lot of grungy surfaces in airports but the grungiest are the bins that you put your stuff in going through security. Safe travels.

    Joe Z

    Reply
    • Thanks for that tip, Joe. I never thought of it before, but just think how many grungy shoes are put in those bins. Then you put your hat or scarf in there next. AUGH! Now I’ll stick my personal items in my carry-on before going thru TSA. Thanks much, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

      Reply
  8. The travel blogger conference in Sicily was just cancelled. Here’s what they said: “On Friday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States raised the travel warning from level 2 to level 3. This is still in effect and The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy. On Saturday Vice President Pence announced during a press conference that the CDC was raising the travel warning to level 4 for parts of Italy. For a level 4 travel warning The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all travel to affected areas within Italy.
    Taking these travel warnings in mind as well as other countries advising against traveling to some parts of Italy, we are confident re-scheduling TBEX Europe 2020 is the most responsible thing to do for everyone involved.”

    Reply
  9. Yesterday I canceled by flights to #TBEX2020, a travel bloggers convention in Catania, Italy. Organizers promise it will be rescheduled in Catania. Since I am still hacking up phlegm from the illness I got 10 days ago, I decided that I wouldn’t want to be sitting next to me on a transAtlantic flight. I’ll keep you informed on how my travel insurance covers my losses. Very disappointed, BTW.

    Reply

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