Coronavirus: Planning Ahead At Home & Abroad

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Update, March 12th 2020: Given the latest information available, and the shockingly ineffective response by the U.S. government, we are recommending against all but the most essential travel (e.g., if you are a healthcare worker needing to position), and would suggest that everyone able to do so self-isolate or practice social distancing for the next few weeks. 


We’ve been receiving dozens of messages a day from readers, clients, and our parents (hi Mom!) asking how the COVID-19 coronavirus is impacting travel. People are understandably worried, and the frenetic news cycle is certainly ratcheting tension over fears of a global pandemic.

I’ve been meaning to put together a general post on the virus and travel for a while, but the combination of what I observed traveling internationally over the weekend and View from the Wing sharing what I’m sure are common coronavirus concerns has pushed me to put everything in one place.

Limiting your exposure doesn’t just mean limiting travel

To start, while I appreciate the questions from people asking if they should avoid traveling to ______ until this blows over, the reality is that our world is too connected for this kind of unpredictable and contagious virus to stay geographically contained.

As we’ve seen in the past few weeks, the situation can evolve quickly and unpredictably. While we were all worried about Ben going to China a month ago, a British man spread the virus to at least 11 people from three different countries while skiing in the French Alps.

Given that, it seems unwise to assume that anywhere is “safe” from contagion. Yes, the numbers are higher in certain areas at present (though those could change quickly), and we are all generally more vulnerable when traveling outside our comfort zone.

There may be a choice to be made between traveling at all versus staying local, but unless you were scheduled to fly to a city that is now under quarantine, it’s hard to see how changing a trip to Country A as opposed to Country B really improves your odds when there are so many unknown variables. You’ll still be increasing your odds at airports, and on planes, and anywhere people congregate.

So whether you choose to travel or not, you are likely better off being consistent in taking general precautions and preparing for any eventualities as opposed to throwing a dart and hoping to avoid exposure based on geography.

Wash your damn hands

Seriously. I’ve seen so many people in airports lately wearing paper surgical masks, which is considerate if you have a cold and are trying to prevent the spread of germs, but realistically isn’t terribly effective as a preventative measure.

What does help?

Hygiene. Especially thorough (and frequent) hand-washing, especially when in public spaces.

Shockingly few people actually know how to wash their hands effectively, and even those who do seemingly don’t often take the time to prioritize a proper hand wash when traveling. I’m probably hyper-aware of this, as I have some immunocompromised people in my life, and need to be more careful about what I bring home, and it’s possible I’m over-scrubbing (if that’s a thing).

But there was more than one occasion this weekend where I was washing my hands in an airport sink and someone wearing a mask came into the restroom, did their business, and completed a quick “courtesy rinse” of their hands — all in the time it took me to wash and dry mine.

If you haven’t seen this video Jimmy Kimmel did with a Mayo Clinic doctor about how to properly wash your hands, I highly recommend it (also, if you run an airport or airline, maybe consider adding some programming on this topic):

Other ways of limiting your exposure and preventing the spread of germs include:

  • Avoid touching your face, including biting your nails, or rubbing your eyes
  • If you do have to cough or sneeze, use a tissue (and immediately discard it, then see above instructions for washing your damn hands), or in a pinch, direct your sneeze/cough into your elbow — “Shark fin!!” as my young nephew reminds anyone in the vicinity with a sniffle

But at a minimum, wash your hands.

Manage your health otherwise (including delaying elective procedures)

Whether you choose to travel internationally or go to your kids’ school play, being proactive about your health in general can lower some of your risk factors. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and managing minor issues seem like small things, but weariness and exhaustion make you more susceptible to all kinds of illnesses.

Call it self care or whatever else, but if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends (something I’m perpetually guilty of), now might be a good time to consider dialing some things back.

Think about your elderly family members and neighbors as well. Are they eating well and keeping up with things, or are they like my grandfather, who would basically eat half a Costco frozen chicken cordon bleu every other day and supplement with coffee?

We’re having some tough conversations in our family. If you live in a building, and your neighbors catch COVID-19, that could make things complicated for everyone — maybe consider having a community meeting, or discussing cleaning protocols with the property manager.

There have been six different treatment protocols in the past six weeks, as scientists and doctors learn more about the virus. There may be six different ones in the next six weeks. But all of them put significant strain on a region’s hospitals, medical equipment, and healthcare workers.

So keep up on your vaccines and general healthcare, but also talk to your doctor about if more intense elective procedures can be delayed until summer. Just in case.

Channel your worry into contingency planning and general disaster preparedness

On Tuesday, Dr. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian doctor who is leading the international team for the World Health Organization in China gave this advice on preparedness for other countries (As a sidenote, if you want some very measured and professional insights into the situation, check out the full press conference he gave in Geneva.):

“Number one, think the virus is going to show up tomorrow.”

That’s not intended to be fear-mongering, but rather to inspire thoughtful and solution-oriented planning. The CDC has said it’s a matter of “when, not if” there are “community spread” cases of COVID-19 in the United States — and during any kind of epidemic, the separation is in the preparation.

At the same time, while China may have initially been slow to understand how contagious this coronavirus is (though I’m not an epidemiologist, and can’t speak to if any other country would have done better given the limited initial understanding of the disease), their aggressive response seems to be working to reduce the infection rate.

Extending a national holiday period, ordering schools and businesses closed, mandating who could leave their homes and for what length of time, going door to door to check for symptoms and instituting other measures that could fairly be described as draconian. Not to mention building field hospitals, shifting equipment around, and being able to test tens of thousands of people a day.

I think it’s questionable if the US would be able to respond in the same way if there’s a similar rate of infection. Our health care system is already overwhelmed in many areas, we have a large population of people who don’t have the economic leeway to miss work even if they are sick, and our political system is (intentionally) not conducive to sweeping decrees. As The Atlantic notes:

Except at the nation’s borders, the federal government, with the expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is not in charge. America’s defense against epidemics is divided among 2,684 state, local, and tribal public-health departments. Each one is responsible for monitoring people within its jurisdiction, imposing isolation or quarantine as needed. CDC officials are “preparing as if [the new coronavirus] is the next pandemic,” but in reality, the laboring oar falls to state and local health departments.

And fundamentally, Americans are an unruly and independent bunch.

This is not paranoia, it’s just math. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch predicts:

Within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-1.

And before people jump in and say “the flu kills way more people!” keep in mind that most of the people who die of the flu have compromised immunity, or aren’t vaccinated. No one is vaccinated against this coronavirus. The average fatality rate for COVID-19 is hovering around 2.3% now; the seasonal flu in the US has a mortality rate of 0.1%, by comparison.

If I look at the numbers in my county (population ~500,000), then even at a 40% infection rate that’s 200,000 people. If let’s say 10% of those infected need hospitalization (and we don’t have good data on what that % would actually be), that’s 20,000 people. There are fewer than 1500 hospital beds in Spokane County, including Children’s Hospitals and rehab facilities. And ~4000 people would die.

Even the “best case” could still put a significant strain on public infrastructure and resources. So you might as well be prepared.

Prep for whatever may happen

The general social expectation in the US is that, in the case of some kind of disaster, you and your neighbors are pretty much on your own for at least an interval of time. The government may eventually show up with water/supplies/shelters/evacuation assistance, but as we see in nearly every hurricane, that isn’t something you should necessarily be relying upon.

So as Gary noted, now is a great time to do the general disaster-preparedness prep that we all should do, but most of us don’t. When I lived in San Diego, we would routinely have power outages, but they never lasted more than a few hours.

The one time we had a significant county-wide outage that created a massive disruption to movement and commerce, we spent it drinking a bottle of tequila on our patio with my husband’s coworkers. That was fun for a day, but would have been problematic after three.

In Spokane, like other cities with more extreme weather, it’s assumed that every years there will be a significant enough storm to knock out power for a time. And because most neighborhood power lines are above ground, and have lots of old trees, it’s common for it to take 3-10 days for the power to be restored.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I truly love winters here. ❄️🌲🏔️

A post shared by Tiffany Funk (@tebfunk) on


So we have a higher level of preparedness here, at least in the winter:

  • Two to three weeks of drinking water (people often forget water)
  • Two weeks of less-perishable food (including an extra bag of dog food), and a backup cooking method
  • We always run our car off the top half of the fuel tank, but in the winter keep it to the top quarter
  • An extra month’s supply of any medications (mainly the dog in our household)

I’m sure anyone who is into extreme prepping would look at my setup and worry for me, but I’m only trying to make reasonable preparations for a period of isolation and inconvenience, not bury ammo in my yard in anticipation of a general apocalypse. And I feel pretty good about our efforts.

But that’s if I happen to be home. And I am scheduled to leave Saturday for almost a month straight of meetings, conferences, and generally high-personal-interaction travel. So I’m working through the eventualities:

  • What happens to my household if I end up in a country/city/hotel with an outbreak?
  • How would I manage being trapped in a quarantine in another location (especially as I have intense food restrictions)?
  • Which of my meetings can be handled virtually instead?
  • How can I support my parents and in-laws (who all live elsewhere) in making sure they are ready?

And other such questions. I don’t have answers to all of them yet myself, but I think it’s a better place to focus my energy than changing my destinations based on the confirmed cases map.

Check your travel insurance

As we’re seeing, some airlines are saying they’ll issue fee waivers, others have more restrictive change policies. I expect these will continue to evolve over the coming weeks, but in general it seems you shouldn’t plan on an airline waiving cancelation to anywhere commercial flights are still allowed to operate to. They have commercial concerns and shareholder expectations to manage too.

For future travel (as it’s currently possible to book travel for next winter’s cold and flu season), you may want to look at supplementary travel coverage. Many of the credit cards in the US that offer travel coverage allow you to cancel if you or a family member become ill, but they don’t have clear language on what happens if you are scheduled to visit a place where a quorum of other people are ill.

Similarly, some of the disaster and medical evacuation plans out there won’t transport you if you are the one with an infectious disease.

So read up on all the fine print, and make sure you understand your options.

Bottom line

I think what it comes down to is that worrying about travel plans is the least of the worrying that should be done right now. While we can’t individually do much to keep an asymptomatic flight attendant from working a flight and going to public gatherings in multiple cities, there are still specific and tangible things that can be done in anticipation of eventually being exposed to a highly contagious virus.

It’s reasonable to be concerned about the rapid spread of this coronavirus, but at this point the focus should be less on whether or not you should go “somewhere” and more on what you can do to be prepared “anywhere.”

What, if any, behaviors are you changing due to the coronavirus outbreak?

Comments
  1. “What, if any, behaviors are you changing due to the coronavirus outbreak?”

    None. Reality check – “the CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths from flu.” That’s 16,000 deaths from the flu is the United States alone. Meanwhile worldwide a total of 2,700 deaths due to the latest scary “it’s a pandemic” virus. If the common flu doesn’t stop you from traveling this virus shouldn’t either.

    My only real concern is being on a flight where someone coughs a little too much and the whole flight ends up spending 14 days in an airport hanger because of the hysteria.

  2. “We always run our car off the top half of the fuel tank, but in the winter keep it to the top quarter”. Yes, I always keep my tank full but I wonder where do people go in case of a snow storm or some sort of virus outbreak. I imagine I would hunker down at home and not br driving anywhere so I always find amazing when people line up outside a gas station when a major winter storm is coming if they are basically staying home.

  3. @Mike. Since you enjoy numbers: The death rate of the Flu is 0.1%. From Coronavirus it is 2.3%.

    At current levels it is indeed less dangerous in TOTAL from a “mortality perspective.” But that’s because there are far less cases. If Coronavirus reaches levels of infection that matches the seasonal flu the total who die will be far greater.

    Stop getting your science from Trump.

  4. It’s nearly impossible to wash your hands on a plane. The water pressure is non existent, you have to touch so much keep the water on, that it’s probably safer not to bother and just use globs of purell

    Plus, too many airports have awful pressure that you cannot wash your hands as required by medical professionals. At least they are automatic and with patience, it’s better than nothing.

  5. @ Stuart. “My science” didn’t come from Trump it came directly from the CDC web site. I couldn’t care less what Trump, Pelosi or any other talking head has to say about it. I just look at the facts. And based on the facts I have no concern whatsoever about contracting this virus.

  6. The worst case scenario in my mind is to become sick in a foreign country with no access to decent heath care. It’s easy to assume that just because you’re young and healthy that this virus is nothing to be concerned with but those health care workers and doctors who are dying in China were all young and healthy.

    Because I need to travel for work in Europe, I will continue to travel there but will delay my vacation travel plans for Asia until the vaccine is out next year.

  7. Great post – except for the suggestion to call a community meeting if there’s concern of someone who’s infected where you live. Frankly that sounds like a terrible idea!

  8. Thank you Tiffany on this coverage! It would be nice to dedicate a coverage on this because of how it effects the travel industry and the virus is moving in leaps and bounds.

    I keep hearing about keeping your hands clean (the obvious) and comparing to the flue.
    My concerns are the following:
    1) Getting the virus that we no nothing about.
    2) When traveling to Europe, if ‘1 person’ is found to have the virus, does this mean the entire hotel, plane, tour bus, etc. go into a 14 day quarantine?
    3) If you are caught in the quarantine, are you flown back to the US in the ‘Plane from Hell’ (saw this last week on another travel blog).
    4) After arriving back in the US, do you go through another 14 days of quarantine?
    5) I don’t want to be diagnosed with the virus over seas and become that ‘1 person’ that gets everyone in quarantine and have people in Space Suits surrounding me.
    6) What about cancellations by airlines? Would I get stuck in Europe if, in this case, Delta cancels my flight?

    Then again, I might get killed in a traffic accident before my trip in June. So, I will do what everyone is doing, wait and see.

  9. To add to your list (for general contingency planning, not just now): a couple of heavy-duty battery-powered lanterns — the sort campers use. Candles are fun and romantic, but get a bit wearing after the first few hours.

    I live miles from anywhere, way down the list of places to restore power to in the event of a black-out. So as well as the house central heating system I have a wood-burning stove that just requires matches (and logs!) to operate.

    You may want to stock-up on back-up mobile phone power banks, and a battery-operated radio.

    But tin foil hats are not really necessary.

  10. @ Santastico @ anon — Well, keeping the gas tank full prevents damage from the combination of condensation and cold in the winter. For general disaster preparedness, it makes sense to have the ability to operate your vehicle for a period of time/distance if infrastructure is hindered to the point where you might not be able to easily refuel (think the internet being down to where gas stations can’t accept credit cards, and you can’t get cash, and/or there isn’t an attendant working because of a quarantine). A vehicle can also be used for more than transportation; it’s potentially a warming station, a way to recharge key electronics, and access to radio announcements. And if things are particularly messy, you can siphon the fuel out of your vehicle to refill your generator (obviously most people who live in cities don’t have a generator).

  11. Sensible advice Ben.

    But as someone (who is admittedly dying of an incurable cancer, and hence has a compromised immune system), if I had the money to globe trot (in luxury comfort), as opposed to trying to live it virtually, I would. Ok so I wouldn’t try to visit Wuhan et all just now, but I am way way more concerned about an elevated temp or steroid sweats leading to unnecessary quarantine then repeated again when I returned home (Britain), than actually catching Coronavirus. But then again my mathematical life expectancy is about 4 years from now, so perhaps I am less concerned about catching it (I also genuinely believe in reincarnation which helps). If it happens it happens, bigger things to worry about in life than a bug most people are recovering fine from.

    Now if the recovery rate was much lower my view may change, and sure I would be washing my hands extensively, thinking about where I would go etc, but perspective.

    Don’t panic. Crossing the road may well be way more life threatening. Immunity will hopefully build in time through catching Coronavirus and recovering or vaccination, or it may just die off. In the meantime don’t overreact, we have been here before, a Spanish flu, meds, sers, etc.

    Listen to your governments (and others) official travel advice, use your judgement, be sensible and don’t panic.

    For me I am going back to virtually fantasying about globe trotting with NetJets and 5 star hotels like a billionaire trust fund baby. But yes if that was reality, even with my health problems I would be physically globetrotting extensively.

  12. If the fatality rate for coronavirus is 2%, that’s 2% of *everyone* who contracts it, correct?

    If so, it seems like you calculated the deaths from the hospitalized population (20,000) to get 400, however if it’s 2% of the 200,000 who catch it, then it would be 4,000 fatalities, wouldn’t it? Or am I missing something? I’m missing something sometimes, so it could be me.

  13. People criticizing the President of the United States for his response to coronavirus are taking preventive health advice from an airline blogger….. right…..makes perfect sense.

    Remember everyone losing their minds when Trump shut down China flights and any foreign nationals entering the US after having been in China? Turns out he was correct.

    I was waiting for OMAAT to turn coronavirus into clickbait. I have to say I’m disappointed in this one. Was hoping for more doom and gloom.

  14. Frequent flyers are often accused of being over-zealous/ paranoid when it comes to measures to avoid exposure to ‘flu’ (…more typically just the common cold…)….that’s because we’re well-aware of the impact even a minor illness can have on the quality/productivity of a trip.
    But there has been an alarming complacency in some quarters about coronavirus: “it’s a Chinese thing”, “it couldn’t happen here”, “it’s just the flu”, “c’est la vie”
    I’m ( barely) old enough to remember the “Asian Flu” of 1957 ( mortality rate 0.5%) and “Hong Kong Flu” of 1968 ( 0.3%). The former killed close to 100,000 Americans ( in a population 1/2 of that today) and more than 2 million around the world.
    If the figures suggested by the Harvard epidemiologist ( cited above) are anywhere near accurate, it would mean a potential 2.64 million US deaths ( US population /40%/2%). Maybe that’s a ‘worst case’ scenario, but I don’t believe it’s hysteria.
    Common sense measures suggested in the article should be adopted by all; most of us follow them as a matter of course;unfortunately we can’t do much to control the actions of others .

  15. Wow Tiffany… I know you won’t care (cos you are who you are) But I’ll say it anyway.

    You come across as rude/ aggressive and talking down to people… “wash your DAMN hands” etc

    The last time I commented on your post was… your words “hey Alaska get your shit together… I can only find 4 Cathay J seats per flight when I know there are 5“

    You are a narcissist. And not good our hobby.

  16. @Stewart Edwards I’m sorry to that you have been ailing.

    @Eddie “People criticizing the President of the United States for his response to coronavirus are taking preventive health advice from an airline blogger….. right…..makes perfect sense.”

    He is not MY president!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!

    And lets be honest it is not like Tiffany has a track record of telling over 17,000 lies since January of 2017. Sane people would take advice from Tiffany any day over anyone in the dotard regieme, least of all dumb dishonest duncey douchey Donnie the dotard.

  17. Yes, wash your goddamn hands and don’t fucking touch your eye before you sanitize them.
    It’s simple, but tripped a lot of people.

    Oh and for “Trump dump shit on desk defender” Eddie, Drumpf also said “There’s a very good chance you’re not gonna die”
    Good luck with your lung turn into scar tissue mess even you aren’t killed for it.

  18. A bit of good news – the latest mortality numbers (at least when I saw them on the news this morning) suggest the 2.3% mortality rate is overstated. Latest figures are 0.5% for South Korea and 0.8% for China outside Wuhan, and there’s still a question of whether this is overstated because many people who may have COVID-19 just presume it’s a cold or the flu.

    That’s not to say we should be complacent, just to be perhaps a little calmer that a lot of people are being.

    Oh, and people are using the masks wrong, wearing the wrong masks, or using them when they shouldn’t be:

    https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/culture/story/stars-wear-masks-amid-coronavirus-warnings-experts-69234257

    And don’t buy any masks from Gwyneth bloody Paltrow

  19. I’ve been counting to 20 when I wash my hands per CDC. How hard is that ?
    Plus your hands smell really good.

  20. This is so good. I didn’t pay attention to the byline for the first couple grafs, but as I got further in, I thought, “This is so measured, so clear, so sensible, so well-informed, so well thought-out, so free of over-dramatization, yet still fun to read. Could this possibly be written by Ben Schlappig?” And sure enough, it was by the consistently excellent Tiffany Funk. Great work.

  21. When washing your hands thoroughly and properly, dry them on paper not in hot air hand dryers that spread viruses all over the room under pressure.

  22. @CraigTPAc
    The WHO 2% mortality rate factors in an estimate of the minor, unreported cases. The mortality rate for those requiring hospitalisation is 8% ( at least in respect of ‘resolved’ cases, ie recovered or dead).
    That’s not good news, unfortunately.

  23. It’s not going to be too bad this spring and summer. However, this winter (2020-2021) it will be like a bad flu season. Instead of 15,000-50,000 people dead, it will be 100,000 people dead. The news will play it up even though they usually don’t play up the many people that die from Influenza A, the common flu.

    2021 will be bad and winter 2021-2022 will see maybe 100,000-150,000 people dead in the U.S.

    Most of us will be alive but a few of us will die…whether Bernie Sanders is president or not. Socialism don’t cure Covid-19 even if we take the billionaires’ money away from them.

  24. Alex_77W says:
    February 27, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Would the tiny bathrooms on AA Oasis planes promote corona virus spreading?

    Only a little. It’s a little harder to wash with a narrow basin.

  25. For everyone saying this virus is no worse than the common flu, consider this, when was the last time you saw medical personnel treating flu victims while dressed in biohazard suits! This thing is a weaponized super virus from China.

  26. Why is no one addressing the fact that only old people are dying of Coronavirus? The overwhelming majority of deaths are over the age of 60, the overwhelming majority of deaths are people with pre-existing respiratory conditions or diabetes?

    Does that apply to any of you? If so, please worry. If not, then remember that 99.8% of people under 40 are fine with Coronavirus. Much like the flu

  27. @ James K. — Because in terms of the immediate societal impact, the number of cases matters more than the ultimate recovery/mortality rate.

    If there are 20,000 people vying for >1500 hospital beds, and far fewer ventilators, the healthcare system could be easily overwhelmed. Sure, the 4,000 people who perish from coronavirus complications will likely be the elderly and immunocompromised (which is pretty standard), but there’s potentially a non-zero impact to the otherwise healthy 30 year-old who is in what should be a survivable car accident and can’t receive an appropriate treatment because hospitals and/or doctors aren’t available.

    Think of it like weather delays with airlines; there’s the immediate impact, and then all the knock-on effects, which can disrupt the entire system.

  28. more us propaganda. wash your hands vigorously. do open mouth yawn, cover your mouth, wear an ND-95 mask. Alcohol wipes. This American “news” is simply fear mongering and typical nonsense. The us empire and the uk need something to drive their usual tabloid style trash. MD, PhD in immunology, and virology. It’s the flu. Except most are so scientific illiterate that to sell clicks or ad that do the US style fear mongering and salesmanship. Keep in the mind, the US has no real health care system for its’ populace except for profit insurance of various scopes and degrees. That’s certainly an urgent matter, and it’s #37 in the world to being the most costly with terrible outcomes compared to other countries.

  29. Tiffany great article as always! One complaint thought:

    The Gmail newsletter still shows “message clipped” and im missing out on all the marvelous OMAAT articles! Are yall still working on a better newsletter format since the last one went bezerk or is this the permanent one?

  30. @ Stuart @Paolo The mortality rate in China outside Wuhan is just 0.8%. Other places also suggest a mortality rate closer to 1%. The exception is places like Iran, where there are probably a lot more cases than in the official numbers. It is not useful to look at the mortality rate of people are hospitalized. That is bogus math as only a small number of people with the virus will be hospitalized. You could equally inflate the death rate from flu if you did the same thing.

    Bottom line: we need to learn to live with the possibility and like we should be doing to avoid flu, wash hands, avoid people on the subway who are sneezing and sniffling a lot, and bow for greetings with friends and colleagues rather than embracing/shaking hands. The Japanese have it right on that front…. and I guess avoid religious cults! Many of us will likely get this, just as many of us have had flu, and we will recover without taking up a hospital bed.

  31. I think it’s not correct to assume that the lower mortality rates in countries with a smaller number of cases will hold, if there is a mass outbreak in a major metropolitan area. Right now, the ratio of health professionals to infected patient is very high in countries with a small number of cases. That ratio will look very different if there is a mass outbreak, and mortality rates will also increase when there are not enough resources to go around. We should be really worried that there aren’t enough protective masks or testing equipment, and we have yet to see a major outbreak in the US. Just something to consider. I really appreciated this post, including the link to the video.

  32. @ Janet
    You are just plain wrong. WHO made calculations based on the likely number of mild , unreported cases and determined that the probably mortality rate..ALL CASES…Is in the order of 2%, or marginally higher. The ‘China outside Wuhan’ number is totally irrelevant…there could be any number of factors to explain a variation, inter alia : age and other demographics, time to seek treatment, quality of care, . It would also to wrong to pay much attention to the higher mortality in Iran or The Philippines, for similar reasons.
    It’s great that many people suffer only mild illness: that’s cold comfort, and scarcely relevant, to the 18% of clinically proven cases in serious or critical condition, or to the ( highly relevant) 8% of ‘resolved’ cases that have ended in death.
    You are not looking at the full picture, and citing incorrect figures , selectively, is unhelpful.

  33. There is a guy at work who not only doesn’t wash his hands after walking out of the toilet stall but he always tries to share his food with me. I always decline because I see his disgusting habits. I think he gets offended but I don’t care. Two days ago, I saw him drop fruit on the floor of the breakroom and he still ate it without washing it in the sink. Sometimes I see him running to the bathroom because he has diarrhea. Gee, I wonder why???

  34. @ Paolo, The WHO continues to alter their calculations and estimates. It is an evolving situation. No one is right or wrong, but there is a risk of over-dramatizing the situation. One could say this is more lethal than flu but less than SARS. All we can do is wash our hands, try to get lots of sleep and eat a healthy diet. It is an evolving situation. Personally I am more comfortable living in Japan than I would be in the US right now as at least they have ramped up production of test kits. The US appears woefully unprepared.

  35. Good article, Tiffany. Glad to see someone calling out the stupid spread of ineffective masks (hardly anyone is using the proper FFP3 ones, which would be pretty uncomfortable to wear for long periods anyway) and emphasising the importance of handwashing!

  36. For those who travel and need medications, bring an extra month’s supply just in case. Look at how long the people were kept on the cruise ship in Tokyo.

  37. I support planning ahead. It is a better alternative to planning behind. Usually, though, planning ahead is only part of moving forward. I am surprised you did not include that phrase, along with washing hands. Of course, part of washing hands is moving them backward and forward.

    In China, there are 78,817 confirmed cases. Of those, 36,042 patients have “recovered.” That leaves 42,775 still sick. Well, they’re not all still sick, some of them are dead. To be precise, 2,786 of them. So we can say that among those who have not recovered, the mortality rate is 6.5%.

  38. “if there are 20,000 people vying for >1500 hospital beds, and far fewer ventilators, the healthcare system could be easily overwhelmed. Sure, the 4,000 people who perish from coronavirus complications will likely be the elderly and immunocompromised (which is pretty standard), but there’s potentially a non-zero impact to the otherwise healthy 30 year-old who is in what should be a survivable car accident and can’t receive an appropriate treatment because hospitals and/or doctors aren’t available.”

    Shout out to Tiffany. She is exactly right. The disease itself is not that fatal but it can induce a very overwhelmed healthcare system especially in the US where healthcare worker has more human right (most facilities are private sectors) and heavy regulation. If the hospital cannot provide a safe working environment like shortage of mask, we can refuse to work. This is highly possible considering the regulation, supply chain, and logistics infrastructure in this country. If we are pushed to work, we sue and with due process we can stop working when we file the lawsuit and we 99.9% will win because the jury will 99.9% side with us thanks for the social panic that media created.
    As a PA who can read Chinese, I read Chinese news regarding outbreak every days. In China, over 17000 healthcare workers are battling with the pandemic and so far 26 passed. This is far lower than normal rate (0.3-0.5%) in China beside Hubei province, Wuhan city and surrounding area, the center of outbreak. In Hubei province, the fatality rate is 4%. This is the number when the healthcare system is crawling. Something different between US and China. China only count nurses and doctors as healthcare worker. Here, we count everyone including EVS, environmental service technician aka hospital housekeeper.

  39. @Janet you sure you want to live in Japan right now? What Japan gov did is heavy criticized by international community. Unfortunately I can also read Japanese, first Japan did not close border to Chinese except Hubei province (Wuhan city) and Zhejiang Province (Wenzhou city). Japan public health department refused to test suspicious patients referred by respiratory doctors because it does not fit their guideline. (In China or in touch with a confirmed case in past 14 days, “heavy symptoms for more than 3 days” this is where stupidity starts, and referral from a respiratory specialist.)
    But Japan has the reason to do so because Japan is also loose gov system that local gov (same as city level in US) has huge power and impact. Local gov is generally formed by local economy group and resident representatives. Japan also does not have a law that force gov to quarantine potential patients. Abe prioritized Japanese “human right” first, including potential patient’s freedom to go out and take public transportation.
    It is really interesting to see how different countries approach the problem. China may recover in a month but the rest of world starts going down.

  40. ‘And before people jump in and say “the flu kills way more people!” keep in mind that most of the people who die of the flu have compromised immunity’

    Well its the same group who dies from this virus. Mostly 80+ years. Ive seen multiple reports of 40+, but they had other illnesses. The youngest in China a couple weeks ago was 48, but had canser. At that time the average age was 77.
    My countrys say this virus can compare with a mild flu. And we are used to the flu in the wintermonths of cold Scandinavia.

  41. I’m sorry but I really don’t understand what all the panic is about. The common flu kills 65,000 people a year in the USA alone and we don’t go into lockdown. What is the fuss all about? Life continues – I won’t be changing any of my travel plans and look forward to scooping up some amazing deals – I’ve just booked a five-star hotel in HKG for 2/3 less than I paid 12 months ago…….

  42. I get that this it is always better to be safe than sorry, but I can’t help that think this is only going to spike fear, for unnecessarily reasons. This is a virus, not a zombie apocalypse and a virus with a 98% survival rate at that. How is having weeks supply of food related to a relatively minor virus similar to the flu. This isn’t doing anyone in society a favor and it’s reckless to spike fear in people for no reason.

  43. Travelled through LHR and FRA last 4 days for a quick Europe trip. Also saw MANY people with paper masks or N95 masks NOT worn properly. Did see most people washing hands vs most escaping the washroom not doing it, but point taken. You touch any surface anyone else touched, WASH YOUR DAMN hands. Door handles, stair rails, elevator buttons, etc. I carried a thick paper towel from the washrooms to avoid touching any thing direct like buttons or door handles.

  44. For the most part, these are good tips, especially the focus on simple things like hygiene. Where I will take some issue is where you go borderline Doomsday Prepper on us about 3/4 of the way through. I assume you’re alluding to the possibility of the authorities ordering a Chinese-style lockdown of the area where you live. With all due respect, stockpiling three weeks’ worth of water and canned goods and a half tank of gas isn’t going to offer much preparation or even help if that happens. The disruption is going to be many orders of magnitude worse than you can possibly imagine or prepare yourself for. It’s also my belief that cooler heads would prevail, and therefore, the risk of something like that happening is too low to give yourself an ulcer worrying about it.

    What certainly IS a realistic possibility is an extended shutdown of schools and possibly mass transit if a significant outbreak occurs in a particular area. Personally, I’d spend a few minutes thinking about: what do I do about child care if my kids can’t go to school? If I usually take the bus or train to work, what is my alternative, whether it’s finding another way in or working from home? If I’m an employer with a large number of workers who depend on mass transit, or would have to stay home in the event of a school disruption, how do I arrange for those workers to remain productive if they can’t make it to the office? Basic stuff you should be thinking about anyway in the event of an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc.

  45. I am going to fill up my gas tank right away to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic. Also I am going to stock drinking water, because one of the things that happens in a pandemic or earthquake or forest fire is that the water supply pipes break. Next, battery powered lanterns. This is such a useful thread.

  46. @ Chuck Lesker — I generally love all your comments, but I think perhaps you missed the point here?

    You know when water supply pipes break? In a harsh winter, when they become frozen, after the power has been out for a week, and the temperature in your house is far below freezing. My list is of the things I already do, because the highest potential for “disaster” where I live is winter. If you live somewhere where there’s a high risk of forest fire or earthquakes, your general disaster preparedness might look different.

    Though FWIW, drinking water shortages are a huge problem after earthquakes in many parts of the country/world, and is an area of high concern for the State of California, amongst other places.

  47. @ Chuck Lesker It is toilet paper you want to stock up on. There has been a run on TP in HK and Singapore, and Friday in Tokyo my helper said no TP was available in the 3 stores she went to.

  48. @Tiffany Hi Tiffany, you still havent answered my question: are yall working on a new newsletter format or will all my Gmail emails be “clipped message” ???

    thank you 🙂

  49. Here is exactly what I am doing, which is what I did during the financial crisis, SARS, mosquito borne illnesses and everything else scary.

    Absolutely nothing…

    other than to now start buying the dips on the stock market. I made hundreds of thousands of dollars in months following each one of these times because of the fear morons have. Keep being fearful. I will be driving a new Lexus LC500 after this “pandemic”. Might get a nice vanity plate too on this one.

    While morons hide in their basement and stockpile water and masks I make dollar bills yo!

  50. As Mike said at the top of the comments, my concern is not of the virus itself. You get sick you get over it. I’m not bothered about that. I’m actually concerned about fear, panic, and hysteria from the whole situation. I am 100% prepared to stay clean and always keep hands clean and touch as few things as possible as I always do. But if someone on a flight coughs a bit too much, I can easily see that plane and everyone on it getting quarantined for 14 days or more. “That” is what I am concerned about. Concerned about getting extra hassle at immigration. Concerned that the loose cannon in the white house will do “God only knows what” at any point. I’m not concerned for my own safety, I’m actually concerned about others’ panic and hysteria.

    This too shall pass, but until it does, we have to deal with the mass hysteria unfortunately.

  51. @schar – Use a desktop mail client, like Mac mail and not the gmail web interface and your emails will no longer be clipped. My experience anyway – hope that helps.

  52. Regarding preparedness and hurricanes…I have friends and former colleagues who live on the east coast of the US. After being battered by a hurricane several years ago, one of the preparedness things several of them did was to have a natural gas backup generator installed in their home – just large enough to take care of their day-to-day needs. In the cases I know of, the generator is connected directly to the home’s gas supply (lines underground). This way, when the storms take out power lines, they still have electricity at home.

    Preparedness is all about the level of risk you are willing to accept.

  53. All of you that are not concerned should read up on the Spanish Flu to see what is possible. This is very serious. The first wave of the Spanish Flu was mild; many did not know they had it. Subsequent waves were deadlier. So much we do not know at this point. And at the beginning of the Spanish Flu, governments tried to downplay it until they couldn’t. If you don’t HAVE to travel, the responsible thing to do is not travel.

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