PEORIA — Coronavirus is causing a number of central Illinois residents to re-think their spring break travel plans.
Sarah and Ravi Kashyap just made the difficult decision to cancel their trip to Turkey. They were taking their sons, Aanan, 18, and Shaan, 13, during Dunlap School District’s spring break. The family is fairly fearless when it comes to travel — they went to Egypt two years ago and China last year — but the coronavirus gave them pause.
“We are not risk-averse, obviously. We went to Egypt even though people say it’s not really safe to go to a place like that. But it’s just that the coronavirus issue right now is evolving,” said Sarah Kashyap during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “It’s so uncertain. People say that it’s just the flu, but it’s more transmissible than flu, and more a danger to us and our health. Turkey is not in the travel ban, but Iran is, and it’s bordering Turkey.”
Most concerning to Kashyap was the idea that someone could get sick in Turkey and be forced to quarantine in healthcare facilities not as well-equipped as they are in the U.S.
“What if you get sick there and then they won’t let you leave? Right? That is so worrisome to me,” said Kashyap. “I’m hearing in some places, in Italy, they are running out of beds, and they have to decide who gets to stay or not.”
The Kashyap family is not alone in debating the safety of upcoming travel. One of Sarah Kashyap’s friends cancelled a trip to Grand Cayman, and Journal Star readers who commented on a recent callout posted on FaceBook were weighing their options.
“We have a spring break cruise planned but trying to decide if we should reschedule,” wrote Melanie Heberer.
Cruise ships are particularly troubling. Large groups of people live in a confined area for days, a situation which seems to aid virus spread. Both the CDC and the U.S. Department of State have warned against cruise ship travel.
Airplanes are also problematic since people sit in close proximity, sometimes for hours.
“I know that our planes have 99.7 whatever HEPA filters, it should be good air quality wise, but when someone next to you sneezes, the potential for transmission is greater,” said Kashyap.
Since the coronavirus has been harder on the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions, experts are recommending age and health be considered when making travel plans.
“If you are in the oldest age group — in your 80s with underlying health issues — truthfully, it’s not a great idea for you to get on any kind of flight,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases during a teleconference hosted by the AARP Tuesday. “If you are in your mid-60s and otherwise generally healthy, I think it’s fine to take small flights, say, within the U.S. But I’d still be concerned about longer flights.”
In addition to health concerns, travelers may also have to contend with event cancellations and travel restrictions imposed by their schools or employers. Bradley University recently crafted travel guidelines for students and staff emphasizing mandatory quarantines for people who travel to certain countries. Below is an excerpt:
“We are following the recommendations of the CDC that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to destinations that have level 3 travel health notices... Per Illinois Department of Public Health guidance, if you travel to these areas you are requested to self-isolate at your permanent home address for 14-days prior to returning to campus.”
While domestic travel is not restricted in BU’s policy, some central Illinois residents voiced concern about visiting any community where coronavirus has been diagnosed. In his comment on FaceBook, Devin Jones said the coronavirus has been one in a string of issues disrupting upcoming plans.
“Between that and Mother Nature, my anniversary trip is up in the air,” he wrote. “First was supposed to go to Tennessee but it flooded and then had a tornado, and next headed to Missouri and find out they have a case of the coronavirus there, so now I have no idea what we are going to do but we WILL go somewhere!”
And others expressed a devil-may-care attitude to the whole thing.
“As long as the flight isn't canceled, I intend to be on it,” wrote Andrew McGlothlen.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.