Covid-19 observations from the high risk camp...

A United flight this week from Maui to Chicago, on a wide-body Boeing 777-200.  The lack of passengers is rather obvious.  Both Caroline and I had an entire row - both side and middle seats - to ourselves. 

At the time I write this, the coronavirus Covid-19 continues its march around the globe. I've written previously about my experience flying to Hawaii after 2 Caribbean cruises with thousands of passengers, including dozens (I assume) from China, and when arriving at HNL, I was "lyfted" home with nary a question on February 3. Later that week, I wrote to Dr. Bruce Anderson, the director of the Hawaii Department of Health, after attending a briefing at the Manoa Neighborhood Board meeting:

"As I listened to your presentation, I reflected that 3 days earlier, I had returned from a Caribbean cruise, with numerous people on board from Asian counties. Yet there was no question for me when I entered Hawaii. Perhaps the agricultural form that all visitors and residents are required to complete before entering the state needs to have a few questions regarding travel and health."

Dr. Anderson replied, "As far as I know, all airline and cruise ship passengers are informed about the pandemic when they arrive and are provided a simple brochure informing them of the risks and preventive measures (hand washing, etc.). I’ll check with the folks at DOT airports and harbors when we have our multiagency meeting today. I agree that they should be notified regardless of where they went on the cruise."

There was no brochure when I arrived, nor was there one when I left Oahu for Maui, and Maui for Chicago.  However, that United flight from Maui to Chicago was eery, with me estimating only 25% of the seats occupied. On a connecting flight from ORD to DCA, about half the seats were occupied (I had all 3 seats on my side of the aisle, as did Caroline in front of me).  The next day I read that United was paring back its flights 10-20%.  

Again, landing in ORD and DCA, no one asked where I had been. Now, I don't think Big Brother should be watching over me at all times, but I think there is probably a reasonable approach that is neither Orwellian nor the honor system.

Chillaxing in DCA after 12+ hours of travel!

People can move vast distances quite rapidly, and the coronavirus moves with them.  Just in the past 48 hours, daughter Katelin has been within a block of a known carrier working at a Starbucks in Seattle (she ate in the restaurant next door). She was asked to self-quarantine until her agency figures out a protocol. Oh, and I'm staying with her in DC.

Starbucks is now "pausing" the use of personal cups and "for here" cups.  

Note - I would think that if personal cups were an issue for influenza or noroviruses, health departments would have prohibited their use long ago.

Wesley is returning from Panama, and the first case of the coronavirus was reported today from Central America (Costa Rica).

And me?  I'm sitting in a Columbia Heights coffee shop, using a "for here" mug, and contemplating the state of the world. I doubt any of the people here today, tolling away on homework, work work, or just relaxing, are worried about catching the coronavirus in Coffy Cafe.  They should be more worried about an Uber Eats driver lifting their backpack and running out, which happened to our neighbor about 2 hours ago.  

Note - the almost immediate use of the stolen credit cards to buy beauty products is a hint that, in a dystopian world, the commodities with the greatest value might be different than expected... I'm investing in toilet paper, .22 ammo, and instant coffee.

As of today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 164 cases of Covid-19 in the US, with 19 states reporting cases.  There have been 11 deaths.  

According to the CDC, "Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness." Okay, I'm in the high(er) risk category, being a senior.

At USU, with students and faculty returning from spring break, the Director of Emergency Management sent out an email asking the campus community:

• If you recently traveled, whether internationally or domestically, please fill out a travel survey (it only asked if you've travelled internationally in the past 14 days).

• If you are returning from a CDC Level Three country (China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy), follow the guidance to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

• If you are returning from a CDC Level Two country (currently only Japan), follow the CDC's guidance to monitor your health and watch for symptoms of COVID-19.

• If you have had contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should contact the Utah Statewide Information Line (and they posted the WRONG phone number, but corrected it later).

Well, over the past 36 days, I've been in Mexico, Hawaii, Chicago (airport only), and DC. I've been on a cruise ship, on planes, on light rail, and in buses. I've been to a sold-out concert by HAPA at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. I've been around lots of other people, and working out at a local sports gym probably had the highest potential for transmission of a virus (I tried to use hand sanitizer, but everything is touched by everybody). And, I've been to playgrounds, the capitol area, and the National Zoo (again, everything is touched by everybody). I don't have the virus, but I see how easily it could spread through community transmission.  I'm trying to be careful, but I'm not "self-isolating." Time will tell whether I chose poorly...

Update:  Today, March 10, I fly from DC to SLC. Harvard University has told its students to move out after spring break and complete courses remotely.  Unless I hear otherwise, I'll go to campus (USU) on Thursday.

On cruise ships. not only the passengers are at risk of infection.  The crew come into contact with the passengers in every venue.  I suspect the officers will, as least for the short term, avoid all physical contact with passengers.  In this photo, Captain Kate is sitting in the front row of the main theater, watching a song and dance performance on the Edge.


  1. Good morning Robert. We had an interesting interaction at the Garden Inn here in Kitwe, Copperbelt, Zambia. As we were walking into the hotel, the attendant at the front door asked if he could sanitize us! He has a large bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted some on our hands. He was a little embarrassed but I thought it was a great idea. There doesn't seem to be much panic here but that may change as we move into the colder months.

  2. On cruise ships (at least the ones I’ve been on), there is a crew member at the entrance to the ship, and in front of the buffet dining areas, with hand sanitizer. I suspect we will see more of this, at least in the short term. When Caroline was USU’s wellness coordinator, she had hand sanitizer stands positioned throughout campus during flu season.


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