“Cabin fever” is the time-worn idiom for the angst of being constrained by small, confined spaces, like a long winter in a 200-square-foot cabin. Spring meant getting outdoors to stretch our legs, take a hike, close the damper on the wood burning fireplace, and finally break the frustrating mental fever of limitations.
The Covid pandemic induced the same symptoms, adding depth to the meaning of spring. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “spring” as: “to surge suddenly upward and forward.” Memorial Day added fuel to the surge, but the impulse to move this time was much greater than the inducements of Memorial Day.
My wife and I kind of jumped the gun, spending two weeks before Memorial Day on St. John in the Caribbean, expecting to flow quickly and unimpeded through airports with room to spare on flights, uncrowded ferries, and other venues. That turned out to be a miscalculation of considerable proportions. The Atlanta airport was crowded, the flights were full, and the beaches were packed — that is, until we found a little coral beach accessible only by determination, a serious Jeep, accessible only via a rocky dirt road that resembled a moonscape leading to the far side of St. John’s island. But then the catamarans found our idyllic beach, and so we shared our bit of paradise with the sailing minions who flowed into the only Caribbean islands welcoming visitors, but only if you tested negative within five days before arrival.
U.S. airline travelers topped out at about one million per day over the holidays. Times Square was once again flooded with urban adventurers, and the National Parks Service announced that reservations were practically booked through Labor Day.
With many states lifting Covid restrictions, the urge to move and be seen is strong. Many states are expecting to hit President Bidens’s target of 70 percent vaccinated by July 4th, Independence Day. But here’s the fly in the ointment. Forbes Magazine reported that “a Morning Consult poll found that people who are unvaccinated are far more likely to be comfortable engaging in normal activities than their vaccinated peers, suggesting community transmission will likely continue to be an issue while vaccine hesitancy remains high.”
The results of the May 2021, Morning Consult poll were consistent. “For travel, 37 percent of unvaccinated respondents would be comfortable going on a cruise versus 17 percent of vaccinated ones, while 47 percentr of the unvaccinated would go to an amusement park versus 30 percent vaccinated, 40 percent feel comfortable flying compared to 31 percent of the vaccinated, and 32 percent are comfortable traveling abroad versus 15 percent of the vaccinated.” So, moving forward, it would appear as though the unvaccinated are more eager to surge and mix it up with the vaccinated 41 percent.
To give a few of these hesitancies some perspective, though not directly related to the polling results, on our flight between Atlanta and Cleveland we sat next to a young man who coughed the entire way to Cleveland Hopkins. Our desire to get relocated was squashed by the fact that there were no other seats available.
In conclusion, I’ll admit there’s somewhat of a sinister pun to the entitled column’s “Breakout Fever.” Places like Chile and the United Arab Emirates have some of the highest vaccination rates, yet are experiencing big surges in febrile infections. According to Michael Touchton, from the University of Miami’s Observatory for the Containment of Covid-19 in the Americas: “In Chile, the country may have been too optimistic after their vaccine rollout and opened up too quickly, especially to internal travel during the summer holiday season. Chile reopened its borders in November 2020 when infections had dropped from its June peak to around 1,400 cases a day. It also permitted domestic travel during the country’s December to February holiday season this year, when restaurants, shops and holiday resorts reopened.”
Ninety-three percent of the Chilean vaccines administered were CoronaVac and SinoVac, both from Chinese pharmaceuticals. In the UAE, four different vaccines have been used, one from China — Sinopharm; one from Russia — Sputnik; as well as AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Could it be the vaccines?
It’s definitely time to begin, albeit cautiously, to open up. The warm, azure blue Caribbean seas were a welcome relief. Ten states have actually reached a 70 percent vaccination rate, close to if not at herd immunity levels. But there are still many unknowns and caution remains the smart attitude for breakout adventurers. One year getting reacquainted in our “cabins” is nothing compared to the months of dreadful difficulties that many COVID-19 “long haulers” are experiencing.
Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.