Does the world see America now as a modern-day leper colony that needs to be contained? That may seem harsh, but right now most countries are more concerned with our disease than our dollars. With one in one hundred Americans infected with the coronavirus, countries formerly wide open to US visitors are slamming their doors.
It’s the height of the summer travel season, yet few Americans are traveling internationally. Many of us are struggling financially or with health concerns and local restrictions, and the decline in air travel has been well-documented. The CEO of American Airlines may have called for US travelers to “Let’s Go Fly for G-d’s Sake,” but few are heeding the call.
But even if Americans could travel, most destinations will not accept US visitors and the risk that accompanies them, due to the high US coronavirus rate.
When the European Union “opened” to internal and external tourists at the beginning of July, the United States was a conspicuous absence from the list of countries whose residents could visit, like Canada, Australia and South Korea.
The European Union has a defacto travel ban on countries testing over a certain threshold for the novel coronavirus.
The policy in Lithuania for example, a member of the EU since 2004, is currently to allow access to fellow EU members and citizens of the UK. That is, “provided the incidence of COVID-19 (coronavirus infection) in the country where they lawfully reside has not exceeded 25 cases/100 000 population in the last 14 calendar days,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. As of July 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S rate was a sobering 1,128.3 cases per 100,000 peope.
When the EU initially barred US travelers due to the high rate of coronavirus, the US had 2.7 million infections as of June 30, according to Johns Hopkins data. Since then, the US coronavirus rate, as well as the list of countries banning US travelers, has only grown. As of July 20, the World Health Organization reports that almost 3.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the US. One report even claims US coronavirus cases may actually be 10 times higher than the data shows.
As for possible travel destinations for Americans, a recent CNN story listed just nine countries that are open to US citizens. The Balkans are possible, as Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia are “open” to Americas, as are the Maldives, Tunisia and Turkey. Closer to home, there is the Dominican Republic and Mexico, although Mexico does not currently permit driving in over the border. Higher-end travelers flying to Mexican resorts are apparently A-OK.
Travel publications like to put the best face on a bad situation, running stories like “Here’s Where Americans Can Go.” The reality is that most countries have banned Americans, but a few leave it up to the individual to prove he is disease free. The UAE, for example, will require travelers from high-risk countries (Americans can look in the mirror) to take a Covid-19 test no more than 4 days before their scheduled flight.
The European Union is the most prominent international entity now barring Americans, but countries from Canada to China deny Americans entry. The latest indignity was the Bahamas closing its border to Americans. Some might see this as the travel equivalent of the US losing to Trinidad and Tobabgo and failing to qualify for the World Cup soccer finals in 2018.
In the Bahamas, air and sea travel to the US will be shut off this week, although tourists from the EU, Britain and Canada will still be allowed if they show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test. The Bahamas Prime Minister pointed to recent surges in COVID-19 cases and deaths as the reason for the ban on Americans.
Sadly, by most measures the United States is indeed Number One when it comes to coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, the US is by far the leader in total number of cases, with 3,685,460, Brazil is #2 with 2,074,860, and India is 3rd, with 1,118,043. WHO statistics show the US is also the leader in total COVID-19 deaths, with 139,498, followed by Brazil, 78,772, and the UK, 45,300.
Measured by number of cases per million, the United States is 10th, behind 9 much smaller nations. Qatar leads the lists with 38,121 cases per million, meaning nearly 4% of the population has been infected. French Guiana, Bahrain, and tiny San Marino all have more than 20,000 cases per million population, or 2%. Chile, with 17,414 cases per million, and Vatican City, with a rate of 14,981 (although its population is just 801) follow. The WHO says the US rate is 11,919 cases per million, about 1.2% of the population.
Of course, Americans are not supposed to travel internationally now anyway. The State Department has maintained its Level 4 travel advisory urging Americans to avoid all international travel because of COVID-19. And yes, the US still has its own travel restrictions in place. For example, Americans are banned from China, while Chinese nationals are barred from the US.
Nonetheless, it is hard to escape the idea that until we get our house in order, the rest of the world sees the US as a disease-ridden danger.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Public health officials are expressing alarm after early data is showing that an overwhelming number of African American residents are among those dying of COVID-19.
Black residents accounted for 72% of deaths from complications of coronavirus disease in Chicago and 52% of positive tests for the coronavirus, despite blacks making up only 30% of the city’s population, according to the city’s public health agency.
Similar conditions mark other large cities with large black populations that are considered hot spots for the coronavirus, including New York, Detroit, Milwaukee and New Orleans. Figures released Monday by Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services showed African Americans, who make up 14% of the state population, make up about 33% of cases statewide and 41% of deaths.
A new team of city and community representatives will focus on contacting residents who are older than 50 and those considered vulnerable to the virus because of other health conditions to share information about prevention and resources for those who do become ill.
A national civil rights group on Monday said that’s a problem across the country and demanded more transparency on race and ethnicity among the COVID-19 testing results, cases and patient outcomes reported by federal health authorities and state health agencies.
“Equal access to healthcare is a critical civil rights issue, and during this novel pandemic, the public deserves nothing less than full transparency from this administration and state public health officials,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.
One of the nation’s top experts on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said coronavirus is “shining a bright light” on unacceptable health disparities for African-Americans.
There’s a push for data showing the race of COVID-19 patients in Florida and a state senator is pushing for more testing in black neighborhoods.
“I asked directly to the surgeon general, then we had a conference call with the surgeon general last week asking for that information,” Gibson said.
Data released by the Florida Department of Health over the weekend shows 21% of people hospitalized with the COVID-19 in Florida are black. According to 2018 U.S. Census figures, 16% of Florida residents are listed as black or African-American.
UF Health Jacksonville began an outreach Wednesday to people who live in a public housing project in Jacksonville’s Durkeeville neighborhood lined up to be tested for COVID-19. Free testing is available to people, especially those at least 65 years of age.
“I am not that familiar with the internet,” said 83-year-old resident Suzy Henry. “So I am grateful and happy they are here today making it convenient for people like me.”
African-American and Hispanic populations typically have are higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and high-cholesterol and income disparity can result in a lower level of preventative health care.
“We haven’t quite seen what we’ve seen in Chicago, Milwaukee, in terms of a racial perspective, but that’s why we are out here, So we can learn more and hopefully put in some interventions,” Dr. Leon Haley of UF Health.
Florida Gov. Ron Desantis also addressed the issue at a news briefing Wednesday.
“We’re now breaking out by race or ethnicity. (We) don’t have it for every patient, but the ones we do we’re putting it there,” DeSantis said. “We’re also with the University of Florida and Shands … a kind of an investigation into some of the public housing communities … where they maybe not getting what they need.”
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