Vacation or vaccine, escaping the COVID pandemic
Escaping the COVID pandemic by going on an overseas vacation is a luxury that very few get to enjoy. But doing so was risky and you could find yourself in a serious jam, forced to quarantine for up to 14-days in hotel-provided room that you can’t leave with the only benefits of food, water, television and internet. The US will not allow you to return if you test positive for coronavirus. And the test is mandatory and must be taken less than three days before you depart
By Ray Hanania
My family is Middle Eastern and I have traveled all my life. The war of 1948 that chased my Christian parents and relatives from their homes in Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem spread them throughout the world to places including Jamaica, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia and of course throughout the United States where they immigrated legally and nurtured a strong love for America that you often don’t see among the immigrants of today.
So I traveled a lot. Traveling is in my blood. If the coronavirus pandemic has done anything to me besides reinforce health concerns as a senior over the past 19 months, it has made me long for the ability to return to vacation.
I live a modest life, work very hard, and I save money. You don’t see that a lot in today’s society where many people want everything for free or believe they are entitled. I pay a lot of taxes but apparently not enough to cover the void created by laziness, entitlement and “envy spite.” That’s where someone wants what you have and hates you for it.
I finally got to travel last week, to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We had to prepare as a family. I got my Pfizer shots. I wear a mask almost all the time except when I am with my immediate family. I scrub my hands with sanitizer frequently and go through it as fast as I consume Diet Coke.
Flying is always a concern. I would get sick on an airplane long before COVID became a frightening and deadly acronym. Long before coronavirus surpassed “gun control” and “abortion” as the most contentious political debate topics.
But if coronavirus did anything, it forced Americans to start focusing more on ways to stay healthy rather than on the kind of health insurance you have. Many illnesses have a lot to do not with the kind of healthcare you have, but your cleanliness practices. There are always exceptions, but for the most part, failing to take care of yourself and embracing unhealthy practices increase your chances of getting sick.
That’s why I am a big believer in wearing a face mask. I ignore the political exploitation of the COVID pandemic by the far right and left, focusing on the commonsense practicality of taking precautions.
It’s still risky going on vacation. And those who don’t take precautions or think a face mask is a violation of your Constitutional rights, are exposing themselves to unnecessary risk. The real COVIDS crazies are the ones who pretend it is not a threat and use it for their political profit.
People who travel should get vaccinated and wear a face mask.
The Dominican Republic and the airlines require proof of a COVID vaccination to board the plane. When you return, you are required to take an antigen nasal test three days before you return. That requirement is imposed by the airlines and the country you are returning to. It makes sense. I know how Americans think about COVID. I don’t know how foreigners do.
I wore a mask throughout the vacation at the resort. At O’Hare Airport. On the Frontier airplane, which claims to be cheaper but really is more expensive than the regular airlines. At the airport on arrival in the Dominican Republic. Going through customs. Waiting for my bags. In the transit ride. At the hotel in the lobby. I only took it off when I was with my family in the room or on the beach. Or, when I was eating dinner.
The hotel took precautions, too. You had to wear plastic gloves to get food from the buffet. Every employee was vaccinated and wore masks all the time. Hand sanitizer was everywhere. It was like being at Costco on a weekend when they had free food stations throughout. Much of the food was cooked fresh.
But at the end of the vacation, you had to take that test. The nurse told me one out of 20 people tested positive for COVID. Mostly people from places outside of the U.S. When you test positive for COVID, you are not allowed back into the United States or allowed on the plane. You are quarantined for two weeks.
What that means is you are placed in a room at the far end of the hotel where you sit for two weeks with air conditioning, a TV and Internet at no cost to you. They provide food, paid for by the government. You can’t go to the beach. The cleaning staff wears full body covers like the movie Contagion. You can’t leave the room. Two weeks of misery, then you purchase your own return ticket when released.
We took the test, and it was negative because we didn’t drop our guard. I don’t want to take a chance. I know I am responsible. The problem is, I don’t know how responsible other people are.
It only takes one exposure to get sick. And your state of health determines whether you live or die.
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. This column was originally published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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