Thursday, March 12, 2020

Curaçao Dispatch: International Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

I will get back to travel blogging because this trip has been absolutely incredible and Curaçao is a spectacular country that deserves your tourism dollars, but I want to acknowledge briefly that yes, I know what is going on in the rest of the world with Coronavirus, and our US government's unbelievably incompetent response to it and yes, I am Concerned. (We STILL aren't testing people outside of a now baselessly set of narrow criteria; we have no idea what our numbers are.)

COVID-19, the disease caused by the Novel Coronavirus has a death rate of nearly 15% in the 80+ category. That is a big freaking deal and I have four people very dear to me who are all 80+, not to mention the fact that EVERYONE who is over 80+ deserves to you know, KEEP LIVING, however long they might have without this aggressive virus. It is not the damn cold. My grandma's 90th birthday party was scheduled for April 4 and we are postponing it indefinitely. I was supposed to travel to San Antonio for work next week, but while I presume that trip is canceled, even if it isn't, I will not be visiting my grandparents as I always love to do when work takes me to their city.

As James and I have talked about ad nauseum since we got here and before we left, we believe this disease is serious. We believe a social and governmental response is necessary. While our President was mocking the disease as a "hoax" to his followers at rallies and silencing our American scientific community a couple weeks ago, we were listening to international epidemiologists and stocking up on necessities. I kept a careful eye on the WHO and CDC websites (though less so on the CDC since our government is less trustworthy these days than others) and we decided, last Saturday (a LIFETIME ago, it feels like), that going through with our travel plans was an acceptable decision. We were going from a state with 1 case (then, and it was several hours away from us) to a country with zero cases (still true) and to the extent social distancing was important (and it is), we were socially distanced in Curaçao in a way it would be very difficult to be at home. If our Spring Break had been next week, I think we would have made a different decision.

But now, on Thursday- only 5 days later!, Trump has arbitrarily banned travel from Europe (except actually kind of not, the White House clarified later after his bizarre speech caused chaos at airports who were not given any advance notice; also countries with Coronavirus cases but ALSO with his struggling golf courses were already excepted), so I do have some concerns about getting home. Not big ones- the Caribbean is still very very light on Coronavirus cases and I do still think we'd be at more risk of spreading it at home (the church down the street from our house has a positive case), but you know, still Concerns. We tried to call American Airlines last night to move up our flight, but because we began our round-trip ticket and took the first leg, we aren't eligible to make changes and an earlier flight back would be $500/person. And since we'd be going from a virus free zone to a virus+ zone and I don't know that it makes sense to spend $2,500 to do that.

So we're here. And it is genuinely bizarre to be here right now. It is so gorgeous, we are enjoying is SO much, and since we aren't eating out or really interacting with people at all, it's like we're on another planet. There aren't TVs in public spaces here, the news isn't on- if I didn't have twitter and James didn't have a world news addiction, we'd have no idea anything was even happening.

As of now we are still scheduled to fly home very early Monday morning to Miami and then, after a 6 hour layover that I have Concerns about, fly to DFW. We were originally planning to go see Miami Beach and eat out in the city, but now we'll pick a corner of the airport, sanitize it as much as possible, and wait it out. I'm still hoping to at least catch an earlier flight out of MIA, but so far AA has said we can't change it. And to be clear, I'm not particularly worried about any of us getting sick - we're young and have healthy immune systems and would likely be in the "cold/mild flu" category, but I'm very concerned about catching it and spreading to others who are not so likely immune.

My office is encouraging telework and I will do so for at least two weeks after we return. TCU has shut down for the next few weeks and that is where we get our nannies and all of James's swim school employees, so he will be home as well. Our school district is planning to have school as of now after Spring Break, the schools are being sanitized and we have such a large at-risk population of students that taking away their safe place to be during the day and their source of breakfast and lunch is a very big decision that I trust our school board is weighing against advice from appropriate experts.

I don't have a goal with this post, I just wanted a space to acknowledge that yes, this big thing is happening and I agree that it is big and I am reading (possibly too much) about it. But we're also here, whether we should be or not, and I am going to keep blogging about it (another post coming up next!) because it's spectacular and we're making memories that are precious to me. So I wanted this separate post to acknowledge that man, it is a very very strange place to be.


  1. I am so glad you’re enjoying your vacation but irritated af on your behalf about American Airlines being a pain. Stay well.

  2. Travel safely and yes PLEASE keep blogging about your beautiful vacation. It's a nice respite from all the covid-19 chatter to be able to see something fresh and light and fun as well.