Traveling to Paradise in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic

7 mins read

I just want to say to all of you cowards out there, don’t be such a chicken squat. Get out there and get your shot.” 

Dolly Parton

The reluctance of people, mostly in red states, to do the two things that will finally get us back to normal is mystifying. Why do they want to keep us from the people and activities we love, family, dining out, concerts, theater and travel? 

Here in California a relatively high 59.4% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. But while that figure is better than many states, it is only slightly more than half. People in the San Francisco Bay area routinely follow indoor masking rules and practice social distancing without any protests or riots. Here in Southern California, indoor mask compliance is more sporadic but still fairly common.

In other parts of California, usually in those areas where people vote Republican and supported the ill-advised and failed recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, vaccination and mask rules find a great deal of resistance. How can these “freedom fighters” in red areas and states keep a straight face while declaring “my body my choice,” when at the same time they are working to deny women the basic right to control their own bodies?

After 18 months of quarantine, my husband and I, both fully vaccinated, took a long-delayed trip to Maui. Even though Hawaii is dependent on tourism, the state government has imposed numerous rules that tourists and locals must follow in order to keep citizens safe. (You can find more information here.)

Masks are required in all indoor locations. If you want to eat inside a restaurant you have to show your vaccination card (some places even require a picture ID). If you can’t prove you are vaccinated against Covid-19, you must dine outside, no ifs, ands or buts.

In many states on the mainland, these restrictions might result in protests or violence, but I saw no signs of either. One person invited us to remove our masks and join him on an elevator, but we declined. That was the most rebellious act we experienced. And that’s the point I want to make: it’s not hard to fight Covid-19, unless you are also fighting stupidity.

Hawaii understands that stupid wants to go on vacation too, so the precautions start before travelers even board the plane. You must be fully vaccinated or show proof of an approved negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of departure. Once in Hawaii, what is allowed and what is not allowed is made abundantly clear. Elevators post signs saying only two masked people, or a group traveling together, may ride at one time. This means that you sometimes need to wait a while for an empty elevator. By now shouldn’t Covid-19 have taught most of us to be more patient? 

The restaurants operate at reduced capacity so tables can be socially distanced. It quickly became a habit to have our vaccination cards and IDs ready when we checked in for a meal. No one complained or refused to follow the rules. Everyone seemed happy to be in a beautiful place where the local government was keeping us safe. Life almost felt normal.

Of course, all that changed when we flew home into Los Angeles, a city that has an indoor mask mandate. We immediately were forced back to “mainland reality” when we saw several people, including two without masks, crowding into an elevator. 

I can’t help wondering why people would thoughtlessly put themselves and others at such risk. A small crowded space like an elevator is the perfect environment for disease to spread. It really isn’t hard to follow the commonsense rules about masking indoors and in crowds and getting vaccinated. I don’t know anyone who enjoys wearing masks or getting shots, but when compared to getting sick, suffering from long-haul Covid symptoms, or dying, why is it even an issue? 

You can find CDC recommendations on how to stay safer while traveling. If you are fully vaccinated you can still take a break from the real world by visiting places that enforce mask requirements and social distancing. More popular destinations should be encouraged to mandate vaccination and masking requirements.

In April of 2020 I mentioned in this piece that 47,992 Americans had died of Covid-19. At that early date in the pandemic, that number seemed an unimaginable loss. Today over 700,000 people have died in this country from the virus. That’s more than died from the “Spanish flu.” 

More than the entire population of cities like Nashville or Boston or Las Vegas have died from Covid-19. The statistics prove that mostly unvaccinated people continue to die from the virus. The death rate among younger people continues to climb as they avoid getting the shots. What is the number that will get the “vaccine-reluctant” and “anti-maskers” to start caring about the rest of us? How do we keep stupid from winning? Will we have to wait for all of them to die to get back to normal?

If some people don’t care enough to protect themselves and others, our government must mandate procedures that keep us safe from their stupidity. It’s not normal, but it’s better than not being able to travel at all.

Photo courtesy of the author.

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