Where TF Can Americans Travel This Summer? And Should They?

As coronavirus cases climb in the United States, American passports appear to be losing their value. But America is GREAT AGAIN, haven’t you heard? Thanks, Donny! As if a raging pandemic, lack of accessible healthcare, and systemic racism weren’t enough, you can say au revoir to your European summer holiday, as well as vacations in a bunch of other places around the globe. Great. As the European Union prepares to reopen, U.S. travelers did not make the 15-country safe list and have officially been blocked from entering. So, where else can Americans travel right now? And better yet, should they travel or cancel trips this summer?

“You Can’t Sit With Us”—The EU, Probably

When the EU closed its borders in March, it was no small decision. The same goes for continuing the ban for Americans, considering the fact that 15 million U.S. travelers visit Europe each year, and the industry creates jobs for 26 million people. Clearly, the bloc’s economy will take a substantial hit as the travel industry’s normally bustling summer season comes and (likely) goes without its usual international visitors. The decision was based on epidemiology as opposed to the economy, with the New York Times reporting that the EU “sought to balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy and the desperate need for tourism revenue.” 

Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan are on the list of approved countries, and that list will be reviewed every two weeks. However, it seems that the U.S. will have to make a serious reduction in new cases in order to be reconsidered, so we won’t be holding our breath. Unlike Americans, travelers from the approved country list will be permitted access to all EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. So if you had hoped for some thirst-trap pics for your grid in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon this summer, you’ll have to keep your posting closer to home.

There’s good news for some Americans, as the ban pertains to your residency rather than your passport. This means if you’re an American living in one of the approved countries and can prove your residency there, you may be able to enter. Congrats—it’s like a get out of jail free card!

Cruel Summer—The Countries Americans Can’t Visit

In addition to the EU, there are also a number of other countries not allowing Americans in. Canada’s regulation hottie Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the continuation of its border closure with the U.S. until August 21, with the possibility of another extension. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and China’s borders also remain closed to all international arrivals. 

As of July 22, the Bahamas has once again closed its borders to the U.S. due to the recent rise in cases stateside. However, if you’re bougie enough to have a private plane or yacht, you can keep planning your vacation as long as you can provide a negative COVID test… but you may get roasted by the internet for being a covidiot if you do. 

Countries Open To American Travelers

Dreaming of the beach? You might be in luck, as a number of Caribbean countries are open to visitors. Belize, Barbados, and Jamaica are all open to international travel, as well as St. Barts, St. Lucia, and Antigua. However, each country or territory has its own COVID restrictions upon entry. Some include providing a negative COVID-19 test no more than a week old, or temperature and health checks upon arrival. 

Mexico is also an option, even though the land border between the country and the U.S. remains closed. You can still arrive in certain areas by plane, but keep in mind that states are opening in varying degrees, so not everywhere in the country is ready for visitors. 

Despite the ban, Europe is not completely off-limits to Americans this summer; the open countries just might not be the places you have at the top of your bucket list. Albania and Serbia are European countries not yet in the EU that are currently allowing international travelers, so start your research on their tourist destinations if you really want to book a trip. Apparently Serbia has a killer wine region—who knew? Additionally, Croatia has decided to issue its own travel requirements outside of the EU’s restrictions, allowing for non-EU citizens to visit, but requiring proof of pre-booked accommodations. Meanwhile, in the UK (no longer an EU member, as you may recall), international travel is permitted; however, all American arrivals must quarantine for 14 days upon entry.

“Just Because You Ameri-can Doesn’t Mean You Ameri-should”

I hate to be the Debbie Downer here, but even though some countries are open doesn’t mean you should be booking the first flight out. The CDC and the U.S. State Department still have travel advisories that warn against non-essential travel. You know what sucks more than wearing a mask during your staycation? Being on a ventilator.

As much as you’re eager to take new travel Instagrams, we are still amidst a pandemic, and there are still a lot of risks associated with travel. Air travel may increase your exposure to the virus due to difficulties with social distancing and being near people indoors for an extended period of time. If you do decide to fly, take the common-sense precautions we’ve been talking about for the last five months: wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and stay six feet apart when possible.

Travelers should also consider the practical risks, like obtaining health insurance. Some travel health insurance becomes void when there is a government travel advisory, so be sure to always check to see that you will be covered in case you get sick or injured during a vacation. 

Many countries are not as lax as the U.S., with nations like Canada and New Zealand still keeping their borders completely closed to visitors even though they have drastically fewer cases and deaths than the U.S. The countries are also enforcing mandatory 14-day quarantine to anyone who enters the country. Additionally, countries like Australia have issued a complete ban on overseas travel, and any exemptions must be approved by the government. Given that the success of flattening the curve in these countries has far outweighed the efforts (or lack thereof) of American officials, it might be wise to take a page from their book.

Party In The USA, Because You Won’t Be Going Anywhere Else

Yes, 2020 has indeed been a horror show, with the U.S. as its main character. For now, let’s hope that next year gets a whole lot better and we can resume our partying in Mykonos in 2021. On the bright side, where other than America can we see a Karen go postal in a Trader Joe’s because her CoNsTiTuTiOnAL rIGhTs are being violated? Plus, there’s still an election that could go horribly wrong! Seriously, just so much to look forward to this year. 

Do everyone a favor and find a friend with a beach or lake house, and just stay the fuck home/in said vacation house and drink margaritas until Florida feels like Florence. Good luck.

Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels

The United States Is Officially In A State Of Emergency

UPDATE,  MARCH 13, 10:30 P.M.: This article has been updated to reflect Google’s correction to claims made that it would roll out a nationwide website to facilitate coronavirus testing. It is only prepared to launch a website for Bay Area patients. 

This afternoon, President Donald Trump gathered a large group of people in close proximity, shook numerous hands, and talked into a microphone touched by a dozen people to reassure America he is serious about the coronavirus. 

After a series of delusional attempts to keep the virus from entering the United States (it’s here, bruh), the president finally declared a national emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak. This doesn’t make the virus any more or less scary than it was yesterday — it’s mostly a procedural move to allow the government access to $50 billion in funding it can use to implement emergency measures to assist “in our shared fight against this disease,” the president said.

Much of that funding will allow states access to resources they’ll use to implement broader testing, boost up medical facilities, and obtain supplies to deal with an influx of what could be hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 patients. As of Friday, there were 1,920 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, with 41 deaths. But given massive shortages in testing, the number of infected people is likely much, much higher.  

Who Was There? 

Much like Taylor Swift on the 1989 tour, most of Trump’s speech was just him introducing his friends. Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Trump was joined by Mike Pence, Coronavirus Response Coordinator Debora Birx, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Asar, and CEOs from Target, Walgreens, CVS, and more. Those companies have agreed to help the administration combat the outbreak by setting up drive-through testing facilities in their parking lots.

This is supposed to be the president reassuring Americans about a pandemic, but instead a parade of the nation's largest chains are shilling their wares while spitting into the same microphone. Magnificent.

— The Betches Sup (@Betches_Sup) March 13, 2020

Tell Me More About This Emergency Declaration

Trump declared the national emergency by invoking the Stafford Act, which allows the federal government to assist states and localities during major disasters or emergencies largely through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The move also allows the Department of Health and Human Services to waive certain regulations placed on hospitals and health care providers that will allow them much more flexibility in containing, diagnosing and treating those impacted by the virus (removes certain federal licensing requirements, limits on beds, hospital stays, and remote medicine, etc.)

The president also announced new tests and protocols that will provide hundreds of thousands of tests by next week and 5 million within a month, but he said he “doubts” we’ll need that many.

A doctor told Congress  he estimated up to 150 million Americans could become infected.

Not sure this is the time for glass half-full thinking, Donald. 

What Have We Been Doing Up Until Now?

Hospitals around the country had largely obeyed strict testing guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control. Those guidelines instructed health care providers only to test people who have traveled to a heavily impacted country or who have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for the virus. 

The problem with that is, we already know the virus has spread throughout communities, meaning someone who’s feeling sick could have come into contact with an infected person without even knowing it. What’s more, the U.S. declined to use the test distributed by the World Health Organization, opting instead to make our own, which resulted in serious delays. 

So, Can We Get Tested Now? 

Supposedly, yes. During the press conference, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Vice President/Coronavirus Czar Pence announced that Google is working on a new website that will help screen Americans for coronavirus testing.  Basically, you’ll take a questionnaire based on your symptoms and other circumstances and the website will tell you if and where to go get tested.

After the press conference, however, Google’s parent company Alphabet clarified its subsidiary, Verily, plans only to launch a smaller-scale website for California patients. There are no immediate plans to roll out a nationwide website to direct testing, as the president claimed.

Vice President Pence also said that we’ll be expanding drive-thru testing, which has already been implemented in the town of New Rochelle, where NY Governor Cuomo has declared a one-mile containment area. Hospitals in California and Texas have also implemented drive-through testing, which is credited with containing the spread in South Korea.

At drive-through COVID-19 testing centers in South Korea, the test takes 10 minutes at most.

Results are texted to you, usually the next day. And it's free — paid for by the government.https://t.co/JjvQ6lSMm3

— NPR (@NPR) March 13, 2020

When asked by PBS News Hour reporter Yamiche Alcindor if he takes responsibility for the lack of testing, President Trump called it a “nasty question” and said he takes “no responsibility at all.” Makes sense. That’s kind of his motto for everything.

My Q: You said you don’t take responsibility for slow response to coronavirus but your administration disbanded the White House office on pandemics?

President Trump: “That’s a nasty question…When you say me, I didn't do it. We have a group of people [in the administration].”

— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 13, 2020

What About Paid Sick Leave?

Contrary to the president’s belief, he is not exclusively in charge of the government. HBIC of Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today the House of Representatives will pass a bill intended to relieve the economic impact of coronavirus. Pelosi designed the bill in close coordination with the White House — not with Trump, who refuses to speak to her, but with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

In his press conference today, Trump said of Democrats: “We just don’t think they’re giving enough, we don’t think the Democrats are giving enough… They’re not doing what’s right for the country.” 

The bill includes temporary provisions to keep the outbreak from devastating families financially, encourage testing, and mitigate the impact of school closures on students and parents. Yeah. I can imagine nothing worse for the country. 

However, moments after the conference ended, Pelosi sent a letter to members of Congress stating she had reached a deal with the administration. The bill includes two weeks guaranteed paid leave in the event one contracts Covid-19, in addition, to leave for increased family leave to care for family members who may be infected or children who are home from school, and a boost in Medicaid funding.

The bill also includes plans to provide lunches for students who rely on school for their meals. Some states and localities had expressed reluctance to close schools given that many kids rely on it for their meals.  

Paid leave is key because it allows people who feel sick to — stay with me here — remain at home instead of forcing themselves to work to earn a paycheck they can’t live without. The United States is one of the only developed nations in the world with no federal paid leave requirement. If your salaried job is letting you stay home to minimize the chances anyone gets sick, take this moment to appreciate your privilege while hourly workers are choosing between going to work sick or not having enough food for their families. 

The Senate canceled their vacation next week to come to D.C. and vote on the bill (senators — they’re just like us). Given that the White House signaled support for the bill, we’d expect the Republican-controlled Senate to pass it as well. 

Now would be a good time to  make sure you’re registered to vote, so you can elect representatives who you trust to manage a global crisis. This will not be the last.

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