Response to Fwd: Global Health Advisory – Level 4 Do Not Travel, March 19, 2020

Hello Conan,

I hope you are well. Are you considering returning to the U.S. given the DOS level 4 restrictions?  

Whatever you do, I hope you are well-connected and keeping up your spirits!

Best wishes,

Friend

———- Forwarded message ———

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.

On March 14, the Department of State authorized the departure of U.S. personnel and family members from any diplomatic or consular post in the world who have determined they are at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19 or who have requested departure based on a commensurate justification. These departures may limit the ability of U.S. Embassies and consulates to provide services to U.S. citizens. 

[…]


Dear Friend,

Thanks for thinking about me and sharing this information. Qatar has been in an orderly lockdown for two weeks now. Before that, I was traveling throughout Singapore and Malaysia; both countries had measures in place to monitor and deal with the spread of the Coronavirus, but there were no travel bans, at the time, enacted on anyone from countries other than China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. Now, travel bans to and from most countries seem to be the new modus operandi. 

In regard to the Department of State warning, I see no reason to “arrange for immediate return” and am “prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” I’m in a small country that has been blockaded for the past three years. This has forced it to strengthen and diversify its trade network with the outside world, be more mindful about its global interconnectedness, and take seriously any shadow of trouble that crests the international horizon. Thus, I am confident in the leadership of this country to maintain social order after the seismic shift caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the tsunamis of distress that are likely to ensue for months to come. Sadly, I am not as confident in the leadership of the country that issues my passport, so I will happily remain a guest worker in Qatar for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of work, my job continues despite the spread of Coronavirus, and I work comfortably from home. If I were to return to the US at this point, I would be leaving order and safety for disorganization and uncertainty. US higher education is in complete disarray at the moment, and my/our field, International Education, is basically moot for the time being. Universities cannot receive international students nor send domestic students abroad. You probably know all of this better than me. What would I do for a living if I were to flee back to the festering arms of America? I can’t teach or advise if there are no students. Better that I stay put and remain gainfully employed.

In regards to keeping my spirit up, yesterday, after teaching my second online class of the day, a friend from work came over. We ordered Indian food, drank red wine, and played video games. Many of my co-workers and single friends live in the same building as me, so if we get lonely, we meet up, converse,  and have dinner together. If I am starting to go a little stir crazy from being cooped up, I go for a walk around the nearby promenade. The weather has not become oppressively hot in Doha yet. In fact, the other night, it actually rained.

Still, despite everything being mostly reasonable for me at present, I was planning on visiting the US in May for my youngest son’s commencement ceremony. I don’t think the ceremony will be happening nor am I certain travel bans will be lifted before I am scheduled to fly out. We shall see, inshallah. I might have taken a loss by buying my plane tickets too early. However, I’ll grudgingly accept those losses. I would like to see my sons, family, and US-bound friends soon, but not at the expense of thousands of more people becoming infected and dying because I was in a rush to resume my previous summer vacation plans. 

Somewhat related to your inquiry about my well-being, I have been compiling a wish list of things that I would like to see changed in the US—should the country gain its footing after this disaster and see the need to reform. I hope that you don’t mind me sharing this with you. Here you go.

-High speed internet needs to be a public right. Private entities should not be allowed to control or monopolize digital access. The internet has been a lifeline for many of us during our self-isolation stint.

-Similarly, the American medical sector needs a complete overhaul to be an actual safety net, and not something that people avoid unless absolutely necessary in order to stave off crushing medical debt.

-Medical professionals and staff need to receive one month paid vacation after this pandemic subsides. Any airline that receives bailout money should have to provide complimentary first-class tickets to these unsung heroes. 

-Teachers at all levels need to be recognized for the adaptability, resourcefulness, and professionalism. Imagine one day preparing to teach your lessons in person and the next day pivoting to online delivery. The pay for teachers needs to be increased across the board.

-Likewise, any minimum wage worker who was forced to work during the pandemic because they provided necessary services should have their pay increased to $15/hour.

-Home and indoor gardening should be encouraged in case there is another lapse in the food supply chain. Heritage skills like canning and food preservation should also be encouraged in the general populace. This might prevent households from bumrushing Sam’s Club or Costco at the first whiff of an emergency.

-Maybe, America, consider installing a bidet and cleaning your ass with water? Just saying.

-Beliefs in traditional Chinese medicine should be disregarded with prejudice, unless subjected to and proven with actual scientific testing. People need to stop thinking that eating a pangolin or civet cat will make you live longer or help with erectile dysfunction. 

-Live markets need to be outlawed, and the slaughter and processing of wild animals needs to be closely regulated. Countries which do not abide by these protocols should be subject to international embargoes.

-Not every business needs a bailout. Some should be allowed to fail. That’s capitalism, right? If the business does warrant a bailout, then it should be subject to more regulation and government accountability. Or, just keep more cash on hand just like citizens are expected to do in order to weather difficult financial times. 

-Additionally, Americans need to stop being told or believing that spending will save the country during hard times. This is idiocy. I’m tired of hearing this. I don’t understand how me being broke or increasing MY debt helps anyone.

-Politicians and pundits who helped weaken or cut FEMA, CDC, or other federal agencies that work on our country’s emergency preparedness should be voted out of office and never allowed to affect public policy.

-What you said before and after coronavirus should be judged and used against you in the court of public opinion. A person should be fined $100 for every time they referred to Coronavirus as a “hoax” on a social media platform. If they don’t want to pay this fine, they can opt for a Verified Idiot Badge to be added to their social media profiles.  

-There needs to be more empathy for migrants and refugees. If there were a country unaffected by coronavirus because it had a cure, how many people would be trying to move legally or illegally to that country?

-All people (including me) need to be more appreciative of things like dining out, going to see a movie, or gathering at the park for a music event. 

-All people (me especially!) need to realize that travel is a luxury and can come at a great cost to the world. 

-Finally, I hope that one day we can all stop being wary of a handshake, a hug, or a conjoining of physical space.

I hope that you and your family are safe, Friend. Thanks for thinking about me and listening to my rant.

Your social-distancing friend,

Conan

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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