As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak of a new respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The virus is a novel (new) coronavirus (CoV), a large family of viruses, and is known as 2019-nCoV. [Update 2/27/2020: The virus has officially been named COVID-19] The source is not yet known but suspected to have emerged from animals.
How does coronavirus spread?
Like influenza, the CDC believes that COVID-19 spreads via respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes. While there is still much unknown, in general, coronaviruses don’t survive long on surfaces, so the CDC believes there is probably a low risk of spread from handling packages or imported goods. It is not yet clear if the virus can be transmitted between people before they exhibit symptoms.
The virus quickly spread in China and more than 25 other countries now have confirmed cases, although it has not yet been declared a pandemic. That designation applies when an infectious disease reaches epidemic proportions in multiple countries or continents. While there are a few COVID-19 infected patients in the U.S., those patients are quarantined and being treated. The virus is NOT currently spreading in the United States. At this time, exposure to the general American public is unlikely, so the health risk is low.
What are the symptoms?
Of confirmed COVID-19 infections, the symptoms ranged from minor cough, fever, or shortness of breath to severe illness and death. The CDC believes the incubation period to be two to fourteen days after exposure. If you feel that you were exposed to the coronavirus, seek medical care immediately. Call ahead and tell them about your symptoms so they can prepare.
Airline and Government Protective Measures
On February 2, 2020, the U.S. State Department raised the travel advisory to the maximum Level 4: Do Not Travel for the entire country of China. China has quarantined nearly 60 million people in Chinese cities and suspended public transportation services to prevent the spread of the virus.
Major international airlines such as Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways have already suspended all flights to and from mainland China until the end of February or longer.
A growing number of countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea, have begun barring entry to all foreigners who have traveled to mainland China within the previous two weeks.
All U.S. nationals who have been in China within 14 days must fly through one of eleven U.S. airports for advanced COVID-19 screening (and potential quarantine) by the Department of Homeland Security. Those airports are:
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
- Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
- Newark-Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
- Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Michigan
Travelers Preventative Measures:
- Stay up to date with the CDC’s travel health notices.
- Review your health insurance and know if it covers you abroad. Consider purchasing travel health and medical evacuation insurance.
- Have access to a list of doctors at your destination. The American Board of Medical Specialists is an authoritative reference. You can also find a list of doctors and hospitals for the country you are visiting on the U.S. Embassy and Consulates website under the “American Citizens Services” heading.
- Talk to your travel consultant if you intend to delay or cancel your travel. Many airlines have implemented free cancellations or change of travel dates without additional charges for coronavirus.
- Business travelers should work with your HR and Security teams to establish appropriate guidelines for travel. Employers have a duty of care to provide their traveling employees guidance and assistance to keep them safe during business travel. That includes prevention recommendations, education about current situations at destinations, and safety resources and plans of action in the event of a crisis.
Everyday Best Practices to Reduce Exposure to Germs:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid travel and public places when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (not your hands), then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The Coronavirus Outlook
This coronavirus emergency continues to evolve. The World Health Organization and the CDC, as well as the Chinese government, are utilizing the full scope of their resources and collective expertise to develop treatments to address this public health situation; however, a vaccine could take a year or longer to get to market.
As a traveler, being aware and taking precautions will help keep you healthy. For questions about impacted travel arrangements, contact your Covington travel advisor.
* Covington Travel provides this information for general information purposes only. Do not construe as legal or medical advice. Covington Travel does not provide advice or recommendations on the prudence of travel to an affected destination. However, we seek to provide pertinent information, allowing companies and travelers to make informed decisions regarding business travel.