If there are a lot of cases of COVID-19 in your city—which is pretty much everybody’s city at this point—you may feel tempted to visit rural relatives or take an impromptu holiday somewhere secluded. That’s actually a terrible idea, and here’s why.
You could spread disease instead of escaping it
Remember, far more people have the disease than realise it yet. If you’re coming from a place with a lot of cases, and going to a place that (you hope) has few or no cases, you could be the problem.
I mean, think about it. If the coronavirus eventually spreads everywhere—as it seems likely to—it’s going to get to your favourite little vacation village by way of a traveller. Look at the ski town of Ischgl, which has a permanent population of only 1,500 people. People brought the virus there probably in February, and it’s been a hub of infection ever since. Don’t be that guy.
The coronavirus might already be there
This thing travels fast. Instead of you being the first person to bring the virus along, perhaps it was somebody who travelled there last week or last month. A quick look at the Hopkins coronavirus dashboard shows pockets of confirmed cases in many rural counties across the U.S. As testing gets better over the coming weeks, we’ll see even more cases that will turn out to have been there all along. You’re not necessarily escaping anything.
Travel brings you in contact with people
You can’t social distance while you’re travelling through airports and bus stations. Think about how many people you come in contact with when you’re travelling, even on a solo road trip. You’ll stop in gas stations, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants. Part of the fun of travelling is meeting new people. Well, now is not the time.
Parks, campgrounds, and other outdoor attractions have seen an uptick in visitors since the outbreak started. As Christopher Solomon reports at Outside, people are congregating in places that they figure don’t count. But they do. One resident told him: “You [travellers] are not away from it all. You are just going to a different type of community.”
Small towns can’t handle a surge in cases
Healthcare system capacity is going to be a huge factor in how well we are able to deal with this pandemic. The way things are going, hospitals may run out of ventilators, ICU resources, and just plain room for patients.
New York City is already seeing this kind of surge in cases. So if you live in New York, you may be tempted to skip town. But think about where you’re going. Small hospitals will be overwhelmed, too, and they need to care for their residents. Adding sick visitors to the caseload is not going to help. Some counties have no intensive care beds at all.
So if you’re feeling scared and want to do something that puts you back in control, rest assured that that is a perfectly normal feeling during a pandemic. These are tough times. But travelling is not likely to solve any of your actual problems, and it could endanger yourself and others.