Update: “Assessing The Risk” Responds

updatesIt’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Assessing The Risk” who was unsure whether or not to respect her husband’s wishes that she not take her 6-year-old child on vacation to Florida amid the coronavirus outbreak. Her update below.

Our trip was to have been this week, and it appears my “shut it down” reaction had about a one-week delay from my husband’s. Based on the news the last few days, I would have cancelled the trip unasked. I told our kid, and they had a little cry and cuddle and then bounced right back.

My husband’s primary concern is that we would get sick and/or stuck there. My husband was worried about it everywhere, but the travel had extra elements (airports, airplanes with recycled air, more folks at the theme parks) that seem to increase the risk. We both work in places where people travel a lot, and we live in a city, so from my earlier perspective we were getting exposed sooner than later, and I generally think the infrastructure is going to be fine in the short-term.

With that said, I appreciated your advice tremendously, especially this: “You can make a decision based on information provided to you and on your own wisdom, and you can take ownership of that decision. Rather than cancelling the trip to appease your husband, you would decide to cancel the trip only if YOU felt it was the best decision.”

I thought about it (and called both the pediatrician and my doctor last week, both of whom said to go, which is kind of funny) and ended up taking a deep breath and just … letting it go. We’ll go some other time, and I’ll spend some one-on-one time with my kiddo at home this week.

I think that’s a wise decision and I’m glad you all feel comfortable with it!

Indeed, the situation around COVID-19 is changing rapidly. My own family vacation is about five weeks away and it’s looking more and more like a decision about whether or not we should go might be made for us. (I would not be surprised if major cities, like NYC, go on “lockdown” at some point and if some air travel is suspended for all non-essential business.) At any rate, I am keeping a close eye on the news and CDC recommendations. For anyone else who has upcoming travel plans you are feeling unsure about now, these tips may be helpful for you. Stay safe, everyone!

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
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  1. Avatar photo courtney89 says:

    Yep.. Going to Ireland (Southern) in 2 weeks and getting a little more anxious about this. Just thankful i dont have plans to go to China, Italy (we were discussing Italy as the destination for this trip), Iran, Korea.. oui.

    1. Looks like parts of the US are going to be the next China/Iran/South Korea.

      People who are testing positive for COVID19 in my country, many of them are returning from travel in the US. People with covid19 here returned from Hawaii, Colorado, Vegas. Vegas doesn’t even have cases! Yet people travelling there return home sick. How many people did they infect on vacation??

      It’s really irresponsible to travel on vacation at this point in time.

      Due to the testing fiasco US must have many many more cases than you think.

  2. I live in Orlando and the theme parks are actually dead right now. I think the virus has caused lots of people to err on the side of caution, but it’s making a dream for us locals to enjoy the parks without lines over an hour!

  3. this coronavirus panic is ridiculous….it has only a slightly higher mortality rate than influenza….big events are being cancelled….the james bond movie was pushed back to november which makes no sense (that is 7 months from now)…indian wells tennis tournament was cancelled….crazy….the thing is it will probably just become part of the yearly cold-flu season eventually….really to protect yourself just wash your hands and if you feel sick stay home

    1. There’s a vaccine for influenza; there not vaccine, and likely won’t be for at least a year, for coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases in the US multiplied by eight times last week, and that was even with our government doing its best to keep tests out of the hands of people who need them (the number of *actual* cases is surely much, much higher than the 500+ confirmed cases as of today). Since we don’t know the actual number of cases, we don’t know the actual mortality rate, but experts estimate it is anywhere from 10-30 times higher than that of influenza (whoever told you the mortality rate is only “slightly higher” than influenza is wrong. If you go by the numbers our government is releasing, which is 22 deaths out of 550 cases, that’s a 4% mortality rate vs. a .15% mortality rate for influenza. That’s a huge increase, but of course that doesn’t reflect reality because we honestly have no real way to know the actual numbers since our government is being slow to get tests out and has muzzled the CDC from confirming how many people have been tested.

      From what we understand, most people will be just fine, but to equate this to influenza is irresponsible. This is much, much worse than that. I’m totally onboard with shuttin’ shit down to help contain the virus which, without a vaccine, is really the best way to do so and save lots of lives of older and immuno-compromised people (which include many of our parents, I bet).

      1. anonymousse says:

        Thanks, Wendy. I’m so tired of the snark for people making small sacrifices to help stop the spread. Postponing a movie is not a huge sacrifice, IMO. I’m actually proud that some people are taking this seriously. I know a victim of the virus, used to live in one of the major towns it has struck and a local high school is closed today for a deep cleaning after a student was exposed to a person who tested positive. Maybe it seems extreme to some, but I am glad some are thinking of those with compromised immune systems.

      2. I also think some of you aren’t necessarily thinking beyond yourselves or your immediate family. Are you not concerned about your parents, grandparents, elderly neighbors, and anyone you may come into contact with who has underlying health issues?

        And yeah, you don’t know the mortality rate. We don’t know, but it looks a lot higher than for flu.

        Be a good citizen and listen to the CDC and take the recommended precautions.

  4. No, the coronavirus has a substantially higher fatality rate which goes up fairly sharply with age over 65. This LW lives with two elderly people.

  5. All of Fulton county’s(Atlanta) schools are closed tomorrow. A teacher tested positive. Its already spreading where I’m at. They’re setting up a quarantine area in a GA state park. Hundreds of trailers. Not where I’d want to go if I were sick. I used to think living so close to a major airport was a good thing. Now not so much. Hopefully a year from now we’ll have an effective vaccine (that 40% of people will refuse) and we can move on to the next scary thing

  6. One of my very favorite things about DW is the updates.

  7. The challenge is three-fold:

    1. Higher mortality rate as noted.
    2. Longer incubation period, you get the flu, you’re sick in a few days – this seems to take a lot longer to take hold and no one is quite sure how long you are asymptomatic but contagious – making it it possible for a single person to infect a lot more people over a longer time period.
    3. Adults who are not immuno-compromised will likely be fine. Children and seniors and those who have fragile immune systems… not so much. So we all have to support one another including self-quarantine. I am in senior central right now.
    4. By the by – a vaccine in a year is a pipe dream. I work in pharma. Clinical trials – even if rushed, take at least a year and ramping up vaccine production to have enough to distribute… that’s at least a year. Companies are going to do what they can, but you can’t really shortcut mass manufacture of live strain vaccines, even at risk you still have to time it based on anticipated approval dates by health authorities. And rushing into market with something not well tested…. lawsuit central. I would not be first in line for first batch.

    1. Thank you for this. Your third note is especially important. Most of us will be fine and may even think all this hysteria is ridiculous because… well, most of us are fine! But this is about all of us as a community and the fact is that there are populations of our community that are much more vulnerable to serious illness and death and there’s no vaccine to protect them so we have to make some sacrifices that will feel inconvenient and even painful – like our kids being out of school for weeks, UGH – for the greater good.

      Also, our health care system is not prepared for the number of people this virus has the potential to infect who will need hospitalization. Hospitals have limited beds, limited space. The better we can slow and delay the spread, the more time hospitals will have to prepare.

    2. allathian says:

      The coronavirus doesn’t seem to affect children as much as many other respiratory illnesses, including influenza, at least so far. Fingers crossed. Still, I favor erring on the side of caution here. Like many other people, I have parents and in-laws in their 70s with chronic illnesses who I want to keep safe.

      1. The thing is though, kids can get it and spread it around. Even if they don’t get really sick, they do contract and carry it. Give it to their grandparents or kids who have compromised immune systems.

    3. Allathian is correct. From everything I’ve read, the young are the least affected by CV. I think the statistic I read is that of the 3k plus deaths so far only 2 were for people under the age of 20. Not that I’m trying to minimize any deaths, but it is the elderly and immune compromised that are the big at-risk groups. Not children thank god.

    4. If it’s anything like swine flu it’ll sneak up on you too. I was a super fit and healthy 27 year old and swine flu knocked me out for weeks. Not during the illness (it actually only felt like a minor cold) but in the cough that hung around for weeks afterwards and developed into a nasty chest infection bordering on pneumonia. If I got something like that now with my immuno-suppressant medication I’d probably be in big trouble. I still remember the doctor telling me good luck when he handed me all my prescriptions!

  8. “Rather than cancelling the trip to appease your husband, you would decide to cancel the trip only if YOU felt it was the best decision.” This sentiment is not conducive to a happy marriage. It’s not a good idea to make unilateral decisions about the kids.

      1. LW here. Wendy is correct, it was about framing it. It was not a unilateral decision, there was no ordering. It’s important (for me, and in general) to remember to not make discussions into me vs. him, or a win vs. lose. Honestly, I was going with the “bad flu” angle until I read more about it. It’s much worse, I’m glad we’re not going, and thinking about things a bit let me approach the whole conversation in a healthier way.

    1. Well her husband ordering her to cancel isn’t conducive to a happy marriage either. Its called, a discussion.

      1. Exactly. And my point was that a decision can be made together and the LW, rather than telling herself she’s acquiescing to her husband can tell herself that SHE is making a decision for the good of her family.

    2. dinoceros says:

      I don’t think you read the original letter.

  9. Whether the elderly relatives in the house are his relatives or her relatives might drive the emotional reaction from husband. It could just be very different perceptions of the level of risk to these relatives.

    1. anonymousse says:

      Kottke.org also has a great post from an epidemiologist from Italy, I pulled this quote-

      “So have patience, too, that you cannot go to the theater, museums or gym. Try to have mercy on that myriad of older people you could exterminate.”

      1. It’s the reality check so many people need (but will probably ignore).

  10. Anonymous says:

    My boyfriend’s son’s mother lives in Germany and he was scheduled to fly to visit her this Friday for a week. My boyfriend made the decision to cancel. He’d be flying (solo) from Toronto to Frankfurt and going to an area that is a major hot spot for the virus with 400+ people infected and rapidly spreading. Naturally she’s pissed, which is absurd. She is an airline attendant and maybe should have suggested canceling the trip herself knowing she is in a high risk area. I understand she’s disappointed but she literally compared our region to hers and that both of our areas are the same risk and should not be an issue. She is getting an extra 1 week this summer when he visits. I think that is more than fair, this couldn’t have been predicted 4 weeks ago. His health/safety is more important and long story short, she doesn’t have custody for a very good reason and one of them is removing their son from Canada unlawfully with plans of not returning him so if there were to be any travel bans or anything like that, he would be stuck there for who knows how long and that would be what she wants.

  11. Bittergaymark says:

    This whole thing is absurdly overhyped.

    1. Except for the part where it gets into a nursing home and kills everyone. Because what, the elderly aren’t human beings with loved ones?

      1. “ At least 54 of Life Care Center’s 120 residents have been taken to hospitals since the outbreak began, and 70 Life Care employees have shown potential symptoms of the virus. The Seattle Times said 31 of the 35 residents tested so far have returned positive results for COVID-19. At least 20 others are still awaiting results.”

    2. Sort of strange to read BGM pushing the Trump propaganda. You do realize that this has now officially been deemed a pandemic by WHO and that whole countries are basically shut down.

      1. Bittergaymark says:

        Please. The latest Trump propaganda is to lock the nation down and create still more panic. More fear. More chaos.

        And in thirty days? Then what? Another 60? Then 90? Eventually 120? Next it’ll simply be “too dangerous” to vote.


        At any rate, we’ll see how well these new measures work out. And what will be left of our economy a few months from now.

      2. Wow Mark. You’re dangerously ignorant about this. Where are you getting your information?

  12. If this thing had a 10-15% fatality rate in white males aged 30-60 like it does with the elderly (yes, it’s that high, and those deaths are in addition to flu, not instead of), the National Guard would be out there enforcing a quarantine for everyone. There’d be absolute panic. It’s only overhyped if it doesn’t affect you.

  13. Kalindria says:

    As a cancer patient currently undergoing chemo, I checked with my oncologist before taking a trip from Washington state at the epicenter of the disease to California by train. My return trip is in ten days via plane. She’s awesome – told me use precautions, said my bloodwork showed I’m not currently immunocompromised and my immune system is strong. Even though I’m over 60 with cancer – two major risk factors – I’m on my trip. No mask, no gloves, lots of social distancing, lots of hand washing and sanitizer. As my oncologist said “You have to live your life.”

  14. absolutely. So horrible watching my beloved older friends; listening to people saying ” it doesn’t matter , it’s only old/frail who will be affected,” So many people near me are not taking precautions for the sake of others. If it was their precious kids rather than my precious friends and relations at risk they’d be burning non hand-washers at the stake.

    1. That’s my thing about this. If it was kids or young adults being affected at the same mortality rates (10-15%) as the elderly, can you even IMAGINE what would be going on in the US? Jesus Christ. Enough with the ageism. And let’s ducking stop it with the moaning about “oh, these candidates are so old” too. This is what we’re working with, okay? They have experience. They are smart. Hopefully they are honest about their health (cough cough Bernie) and choose a strong younger running mate. Ageism is as bad as sexism or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Get past it.

  15. Hazel — it seems like the Trump supporters who delight in wasting energy as a show of political support, now not taking precautions is supporting a president who denies there is a problem and wants to keep the ill quarantined on a ship, so that they don’t count about ‘his’ total of infections if they come ashore. There really is a very strong whiff of nihilism and a desire to tear down everything/destroy the world to bring on the end times with a lot of people in the Trump cult.

    1. And Pence and Trump continuing to shake hands with everyone – what the fuck!

      1. And hold their stupid rallies!

        But remember, he’s a man who doesn’t sleep and works 16 hours a day. He’s going to have no problem with the virus, right?

    2. Bittergaymark says:

      Eh… Now that Biden has been fucking anointed — Trump dying of Corona is our only real shot at him ever leaving office any time soon. Keep shaking hands. Donnie.

      1. I think it would be a fitting way for him to go, but again, the more hands you shake after being exposed at CPAC, the more people you’re gonna kill. So. Let’s not.

      2. Bittergaymark says:

        A bunch of deranged Trumpers? Fine by me,

      3. You really don’t seem to understand about spread. You said above there have only been 31 deaths. Like that’s it. Like cases and deaths aren’t expanding exponentially. A week ago there were 15 cases in the US, today it’s 1200+. And we’re barely even testing anyone! It’s obviously way more than that. The death toll is 37 now. That’s 3% of the confirmed cases. Dr. Fauci says it’s 10x more lethal than the flu. And here you’re like, oh, some deranged Trumpers will die. That’s not how it works. It will spread from person to person and infect people who have nothing to do with Trump. Do you really not understand that?

      4. The number of cases in Italy went from 3 to over 12,000 in three weeks. I just read that all stores except groceries and pharmacies are closing down.

  16. Should not wish ill on anyone. Karma. The best we can hope for is to slow the spread so the hospital do not get over run. A lot of medical personal are going to die because they are going to be exhausted/not eating well/not getting sleep. Over at the CDC heads should roll. Why start from scratch on testing kits.

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      The whole testing kit fiasco is so maddening. Just maddening.

  17. Wow, that press conference last night. So, my husband got on a plane to Amsterdam at 8pm. He was apprehensive about going because he didn’t know what might develop while he was gone in terms of travel and new rules, etc. But it was only 4 nights, and it was to compete in a team sport that also relates to his job. He didn’t want to be the only one on the team to say he wasn’t going, because they wouldn’t be able to compete. So they had been in the air like a half hour when they heard about Trump’s stupid announcement about European travel. My husband had to change his return flight to turn right around and come back. I guess they’re not even going to run the flights from Amsterdam to a Boston after Friday. He’s on the return flight now, thank goodness. What mayhem!

    1. Instead of banning travel from Europe – with no consultation with any European leaders! – Trump needs to get tests in our hands! My God, we’re so far behind on that, it’s stunning.

      1. And then there is his suspending the income tax thing. That won’t help people who aren’t getting a paycheck!!!!

  18. I’m glad he’s able to get home! I’m sorry he’s missing the tournament.

    1. That was supposed to be a reply to @kate.

  19. Not stupid. Should have been done sooner. The majority of new clusters were being traced back to Europe.

    1. The way it was handled was extremely stupid, Oracle. He misstated several things in the press conference that caused a lot of confusion. He didn’t consult with other world leaders. He just made a random and haphazard announcement to try to save his own skin wrt the stock market. And ended up making it worse. Futures are down 1200 points because of his idiotic bungled delivery. He said cargo and shipping was included in the ban and then later had to say that’s not true. What. The. Fuck. Also, by your logic, why not ban travel from the UK too? More stupidity.

      1. There’s also a lot of debate (according to doctors) whether this ban is beneficial at this late point when there’s already community spread in the US. Turn off Fox and read the real news.

      2. Right? All of Europe but the UK? WTF? And the 1200 point drop was DURING his speech. Insane!

  20. anonymousse says:

    I’m really worried about the lack of testing. There are threads going around of people being refused tests because they haven’t traveled outside of the country.

  21. Bittergaymark says:

    California and Oregon just banned all gatherings of over 250 people. Unless they are Homeless camps. Darkly hilarious — that last part. Anyway, hopefully these extreme measures work. Though God knows waiving Homeless Encampments is hilariously naive!

  22. Since when do you have to ask permission from another country to do what is best for yours? As if the EU were really our friends. As a medical professional (yes I know some people do not count dentists) not having people that may be contagious come over – and face it by sheer numbers of the people arriving from the EU some are going to be contagious – is a good thing. The blame of not having test kits is the fault of the CDC. And by the way Argentina is putting a ban on certain countries from coming to their country. That includes countries which are in the EU. They may include the US. Grenada is sending all tourists home along with chartered air flights for about 4,000 medical students. As for the stock market, people are selling for so many reasons including knowning there is going to be a major slowdown and panic selling.

    1. Ok go back to Fox and stop spreading false medical and financial information on here. This isn’t the first time you’ve jumped on here with bogus medical info.

      And yes, the president of a country who’s going to institute a travel ban should make the presidents of those countries aware of it. What are you smoking? His presser last night caused confusion around the world and DIRECTLY caused the stock market to plummet into a bear market.

    2. It makes sense to limit travel, but this particular ban does not make that much sense, because the virus is everywhere. It’s in the UK, it’s in South America, in Ukraine, it’s in Japan and Thailand and RIGHT HERE, IN THE UNITED STATES ALREADY. Barn door, horse, etc. Banning travel from EU countries isn’t going to slow this down. Widespread testing and an immediate mandate for nationwide paid sick leave would go MUCH MUCH farther. The failure to have tests ready is outrageous. The testing criteria are much too narrow, and people can’t get tested even if they have symptoms. (I have a facebook friend whose daughter probably has it but no one will test her because she doesn’t have severe respiratory distress and hasn’t traveled abroad.) Without these measures our health systems will soon be overwhelmed with the very sick as the virus continues to spread.

      Amazing how fast our nation’s failures have been exposed: lack of access to affordable health care, the craven gutting of public goods and services, lack of adequate policy to allow people to take care of themselves and their families without risking destitution, the digital divide and prevalence of food insecurity causing schools to stay open when they probably should close.

  23. Interesting Kate. You somehow assume what I am watching on TV. CNBC by the way. As for bogus medical information I am just going to smile at that. BMG, there a has been no excuse for not taking care of the homeless in LA and other cities in California. I lived for three years in Little Tokyo which is 3 blocks from skid row. That bond LA passed a couple of years ago – last time I checked no money has yet gone to building permanent housing for the homeless – only temporary housing. Not the goal of the bond. You know that LA shuts off the water fountains in the parks so the homeless can not drink water at night? No or very little temp bathrooms. Sidewalks, what a mess. I moved out of state in May. I guess it’s going to take most people getting sick in LA before really helping the homeless population.

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