Some people are traveling again, and travel shaming has dropped substantially compared to late March and April, but many who do travel are still afraid to post to Instagram for fear of the social media backlash.
- There’s an irrational belief that all travel is bad, even if holders of that belief cannot explain why all travel increases spread of Covid-19. (I’ll explain why it doesn’t in a moment.)
- There’s a deep recession, and many people are hurting. So proponents of solidarity suggest everyone should suffer, or at least be shamed for not suffering. (I happen to think if you can find a bit of happiness in the midst of 2020, that’s a good thing.)
It’s this notion of solidarity that may even keep people from planning – or admitting they’re planning – future travel because to do so is to admit that they can which is deemed impolite when not everyone else can.
Risk Of Travel Is Limited
Back in March I wrote that most people were overestimating the risks associated with travel and virtue signalers descended. The reason to shut down travel was to avoid bringing the virus from someplace where it’s spreading to someplace where it isn’t.
- Travel itself isn’t uniquely dangerous. As you’d expect, there are a couple of flights where there’s been suspected spread of the virus, one person may have caught it in January on a plane full of Wuhan passengers and a March 1 London – Hanoi flight. We don’t know if passengers caught it on the jetway, the gate area or on the plane – or if it was a coincidence.
- Flying seems less risky, then, than eating inside a restaurant, going to a movie (AMC Theaters are re-opening), or working out inside a gym.
What Makes Sense For New Zealand Doesn’t Make Sense For Florida
Viruses don’t stay away forever, unless the rest of the world hits herd immunity or there’s an effective vaccine. As soon as you let your guard down, or make a mistake, it gets in. It’s better to push off the virus to the future, though, because of the possibility of better treatments and a vaccine. Already patient outcomes have improved markedly since the beginning of the pandemic.
New Zealand is trying to rid itself of the virus completely, and given that strategy – if they can make it work for, say, six more months – it makes sense to ban travel. But where the virus is already spreading? Surely anyone would have to admit that the U.S.’s continued ban on travelers from Europe and China is nuts because there’s a lot more virus here than there is in either of those places.
What Matters Is Where You’re Traveling From And Going To
New York City hasn’t been distancing and wearing masks better than Maryland. That simply doesn’t explain why New York’s virus spread has slowed so much. Connecticut hasn’t been more virtuous than Michigan or Washington state. Instead the spread in New York has slowed as much as it has because of a combination of precautions (distancing, masks) and that there are simply a smaller percentage of people left to infect there than in many places.
Here, we expect Rt will equal R0 ⨉ fraction of the population susceptible ⨉ relative social connectivity. If R0 is 2.5 and social connectivity is 56% of normal then realized Rt will be 1.4. In this case, the herd immune threshold would be 29%. 8/16 pic.twitter.com/AzMDXbIGxS
— Trevor Bedford (@trvrb) August 7, 2020
There’s not a lot of virus in New York now. If a New Yorker travels to Florida they aren’t bringing the virus to Florida as though it isn’t already spreading rapidly in Florida (though it’s slowing, because Miami has now had nearly as much virus per capita as New York City). There simply no projectable harm, even if the traveler was asymptomatic or presymptomatic with Covid-19. And they have to quarantine upon their return.
There Are Still Reasons Not To Travel
There are plenty of people taking road trips instead of flying, but this may be silly. In normal times flying is far safer than driving, and the Covid pandemic doesn’t flip that calculation. When you’re driving you may get tired. You have to deal with other drivers. Car accidents can happen for a number of reasons.
But how can you go about buying a ticket to Hawaii, when they keep changing their re-opening plans? And how can you buy a ticket to New York – you may be coming from a state that isn’t on their quarantine list, but by the time travel arrives it might be. A country currently open to Americans may shut its borders, or change its entry requirements. In other words, regime uncertainty.
Or you may be exposed to someone who tests positive for Covid-19 and have to quarantine for up to two weeks, and be unable to return home when planned. You could have the unexpected expense and inconvenience of extending your stay for two weeks.
Many hotels just aren’t fun right now, with no housekeeping, amenities closed, yet still charging resort fees. And that special first class trip? Don’t expect what you used to get on board, either.
And if you do travel there simply may not be as much to do, with restaurants and bars closed in many places, and many entertainment venues shut down.
But If You Travel, By All Means Share It
There are several good reasons, I think, that if you’re traveling you should report on your trips.
- It’s good to help educate people what travel is like right now. I’m almost always going to come down on the side of sharing more information with people, to help them form their own expectations and make fully-informed (rather than misinformed) decisions.
- It’s good to inspire people for the future. One of the ways to cope with the current times is to have a vision and inspiration for something better down the line. They may be sacrificing now, for health or economic reasons, but this is something to look forward to and that keeps us going as human beings.
- It stores the memories and extends the trip for better or worse things are more ‘real’ for many people when they’re online, and it’s certainly reasonable that as social creatures things are more real when we can share them with people we care about. Posting to social media lets us look back on the trip, and it continues to be ‘real’ through the time that it’s posted and when we scroll through our own feeds. If nothing else that can serve as a bridge to 2021.
Another word for ‘solidarity’ during difficult times is resentment. And that’s not the emotion we should be giving into, in travel or our politics.
Nick Gillespie takes this social shaming as “a sign of late capitalism..an indicator that faith in the system is dead or dying” and asks what’s “wrong with people that they can’t enjoy their lives?”
I much prefer a version of ‘being all in this together’ where we help lift each other up, not have to apologize for our joys and keep celebration under wraps. There’s not enough joy in 2020 as it is.