Why are Americans shaking in their boots and fighting each other while there is an international push to normalcy again?
I just returned from a month in Italy. Other friends of mine live in France and Spain. Yet other international travel analysts traveled from the Middle East to South Africa, Turkey, and Greece. Conversations between us have been frequent, as have comments on life on the road. The one thing we agree on is that there is an international travel push to normalcy.
Americans need to travel more to have another approach to this pandemic. Travel to other countries is eye-opening.
The recent pandemic is slowly fading. Talk among Italians on a crowded vaporetto plying the canals of Venice hark to the changes. Liberal politics say, “Take your time.” Conservatives proclaim, “Get on with your life.” When the government announced the ending of indoor mask mandates, confusion reigned in Venice. At a vaporetto stop where I waited, questions were all the same, “Do we have to wear masks aboard the waterbuses?”
That question was answered when the vaporetto arrived. The international crowd of workers, locals, and visitors learned the answer. The boat operators wanted masks worn. So everyone wore a mask. The newest mandate only applied to shops and restaurants, not public transportation. There was a collective shrug in Italy, and life continued aboard the waterbus as before, with masks.
The international travel differences seem to focus on political persuasion rather than medical research.
These differences rend apart societies where opposite forces are about even. The calm, collective action of the Italians would have resulted in many loud protests or complaints in the US. But in Venice, it was the way it was. The entire population seemed to lean into their collective efforts to stop the coronavirus rather than deny it.
Italians have seen too much death during the pandemic. They are willing to put up with what they consider reasonable precautions. Like wearing seatbelts in cars, masks on buses make sense and don’t generate many protests.
In the US, the end of the mask mandate was treated with terror by many mask wearers and by cheers from the anti-mask crowds.
The cooperation in the US of the vaccinated with government actions has been openly opposed by the unvaccinated.
I have seen many show public disdain for government rules here at home. And according to many, there would be more expressions of government failures if the silent citizens were not so quiet. In Europe, it seems that government actions have not generated such public animosity.
Americans have a choice about whether to vaccinate or not.
It is time for individuals to take care of themselves. The vaccinated Americans know, more or less, that they can catch COVID, but the symptoms will be mild — meaning you probably won’t die. The unvaccinated have been repeatedly told that they will have a severe case of COVID if they get infected with the virus. So, there is a fundamental choice that citizens have today with the widespread availability of vaccines. Either you suffer mild symptoms or deal with a far more severe infection and possible death.
Let the people make that decision, not the government. The time for government intervention has passed. We, as a society, have stark and clear choices.
Some mandates only serve to confuse Americans. Why do we need vaccinations for international travel plus “return to USA testing” for coronavirus?
This testing rule is one of the most arcane rules to me. After the nationwide campaign to get everyone vaccinated, why do we continue to punish travelers with day-before return-to-USA testing? This mandate is not understandable. With the loopholes in the current directive, the testing requirement hobbles international travel.
Upon my return to the USA from Italy last week, two public locations in the canal-laced city for testing existed — one in St. Mark’s Square and the other near the bus and train stations. Another testing site was at the airport, but that was fraught with other issues, especially the time needed for testing and the unknown crowds that may require testing. Every option would cost individuals anxiety, time, and cash — from about $25 to $50 (and perhaps more).
The return to USA testing sites the CDC monitors are not the solution. Americans have choices. Allow them to make international travel decisions.
I admit that masking effectively stops many infections — far more than only COVID.
There are many reasons to wear a mask when in crowded situations. Since Americans have had permission to stop wearing masks, I have caught a cold. I have not had a cold or runny nose for two and a half years. Many have noticed that the flu seemed to disappear with the announcement of mask mandates. It is hard to argue that wearing masks does not have positive effects when faced with widespread viruses.
Today, however, it is time to allow the country to deal with the problems caused by COVID by providing Americans with more choices. Dr. Fauci said, “You don’t make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline.” Today, unlike two years ago, Americans can decide whether to protect themselves. Allow them to do that for international travel.
The government should continue with warnings and official notifications. The news media will spread the word. Now is the time to allow Americans to make personal decisions again. And one of the decision points should be made based on the experience in other countries. This is another reason for international travel.
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Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 14 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation, and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.