Covid-19 and Travel

Blind travels logo, text with a silhouette of a guide dog in harness.

As the coronavirus (covid-19) continues to spread around the world, many concerns have arisen about travel, especially with a guide dog. This blog is non-political, so don’t expect me to “bash” the current administration for their effectiveness in dealing with this virus. Instead, I would like to share with my readers what I have learned about the virus (from friends who are in the health care industry), my plan to weather this biologic storm and how it affects my travel plans in the near future.

First, let me state that I am not a physician or associated with the healthcare industry in any way, therefore you should take my advice with as much caution as you would from anyone else in your life that has an opinion but is not a doctor. I will say that the first thing you will hear from me and anyone else writing about this virus is the importance of washing your hands and not touching your face. Whether you are looking to keep yourself healthy during flu season or if you have just attended a sporting event at your local stadium, it is a good idea to wash your hands often and thoroughly. There are opportunities for infection all around us, and it doesn’t hurt to take a moment and wash your hands after going to places like the grocery store where you are touching carts that others before you have handled.

Traveling visually impaired with covid-19 (coronavirus)

It is tough to tell what and where you are touching when traveling to an unfamiliar location, so tossing a small container of hand sanitizer in your pocket is a good idea. Remember that there are restrictions on the size of liquid you carry with you on a plane. I carry a small one-ounce bottle with me. If you use eye drops, the smallest bottle is usually one ounce, so gauge the size of your purchase by that. When standing at a counter paying for your purchases, be especially present about where your hands are. I am paying with cash whenever possible to avoid touching the ATM and debit card machines. According to the CDC, there is no need to wear a mask when traveling, the only time a mask is best is when you might be sick. Using a mask at this point will help to reduce the possibility of infection to those around you. If you are a cane user, be wary of where you set your cane down and don’t be afraid to disinfect it with Clorox or other disinfectant wipes. Remember that if you set your cane down on a counter to pay for your purchases then pick it up its no different than touching the counter yourself. I use a belt cane holster, which gives me a place to store the cane when not in use that I can be relatively sure about the cleanliness.

Where we are currently

With a rapidly developing virus like covid-19, by the time an article like this is posted things could have changed radically, so please refer to the website for the latest data. As of this writing, March 7, 2020, these are the current statistics for the covid-19 virus for the United States. This is according to the CDC, which I consider to be a reputable source for this kind of information.

  • Total cases: 164
  • Total deaths: 11
  • States reporting cases: 19

* Data include both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since January 21, 2020, with the exception of testing results for persons repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China and Japan. State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases. In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.

What are the symptoms and severity of the virus?

From the website:

The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a reportexternal icon out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. 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.

Learn more about the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

How does this relate to travel?

The reason I have only added cases in the United States in this article is because I would not recommend traveling internationally at this point. I have cancelled my international travel plans through summer. This is not due to CDC recommendations, I choose to do this to minimize my potential exposure to the virus. I think that cancellations of large public gatherings and entertainment festivals is very telling. South By Southwest and Ultra Music Festival have both been cancelled as of March 6, 2020. The CDC and WHO have not issued shelter in place or other recommendations, however participating in large public gatherings like these in my personal opinion are not worth the risk.

I have reservations for a trip to Vegas this month, but at this point I have not decided whether I will be traveling. I have a friend who works for T-Mobile and he has told me that they have suspended all travel internationally and domestic. I think this is also telling in that they are not panicking, but rather suspending travel out of an abundance of caution. In particular, Vegas seems like a poor choice given the close proximity of travelers and the potential for infection from all the slot machines and other surfaces we touch regularly when hanging out in Vegas. I’ll let this go for a bit longer and see what next week brings in terms of new cases and the direction of new infections.

What about a Guide Dog?

My guide came from Guide Dogs for the Blind, and they do a great job of keeping their program alum appraised of concerns like covid-19. They don’t sensationalize the data and offer practical advice for their clients. Recently, they sent out an email with a message from their Veterinary Medical Director, Dr. Kate Kuzminski, DVM, on the subject:

“As you may know, dogs (and cats) do get coronaviruses which cause short-lived respiratory and gastrointestinal signs. To be clear, the COVID-19 strain we are now seeing in people is not the same strain.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no animals in the United States have been identified with the virus, and there is no evidence that dogs or other pets can contract or spread COVID-19.  At this time, experts have not expressed concern about transmission to or from animals and many health organizations have indicated that pets and other domestic animals are not considered at risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19.  Since animals can spread other diseases to people, appropriate hand washing is always recommended when handling animals.” 

There you have it, earlier this week there were stories about animals in China with the disease, but at this time the CDC is not concerned about our animals getting the virus. This can change, and I will of course update this article if the situation changes. If I end up going on my Vegas trip I will bring my guide.

Stay safe out there, make good decisions about your exposure to public events. Make sure that you are getting your information about this virus and it’s progression from a valid source, and above all don’t panic. This isn’t our first rodeo with a virus like this, and we will get through it. I would love to hear your thoughts on travel with the virus concerns looming. Are you cancelling your flights? Are you stockpiling food and toilet paper? I would love to know where you are with this. Oh! and wash your hands!

Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Until then, get out and get shooting! 

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