One nation under quarantine: when travel became the great divider
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Whether it was gathering with family for a holiday barbecue, hopping on a cruise ship in Miami with friends, or crossing the globe to better understand and absorb a different culture, travel is supposed to be a great uniter.
Right now? Not so much.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter
COVID-19 is doing its best to force people apart in a million different ways. Stay-at-home orders and quarantines have separated families and friends. And that’s to say nothing of front-line workers who are spending time apart from their parents and children to protect them from transmission. The toll for people who’ve been sickened? Even worse. And somehow, even your summer vacation — which is supposed to be a blissful break from everyday troubles — has become divisive, too.
After a devastating COVID-19 outbreak on the West Coast and in the Northeastern United States in March and April, states across the country’s Sun Belt, from Florida to California, are suddenly seeing huge spikes in the number of reported cases. As it did months ago, it’s had sudden and serious repercussions that impact travel.
Visitors from 16 states with high infection rates, including Texas and Florida, now need to quarantine for 14 days upon entering New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. For those who live in the tri-state area, leaving for a vacation can also have consequences. New Yorkers who visit heavily impacted states, for example, could lose their right to paid sick leave upon their return. All of this follows similar quarantine requirements in states like Maine and Hawaii, which both targeted all travelers, not just those from COVID-19 hot-spots. Maine, like New York, threatened violators with hefty fines.
Between these two outbreaks, there had been a moment when travel seemed more feasible. States were opening businesses and heralding creative plans for salvaging summer. The message was clear: if we were careful, we could also be hopeful. There were National Parks that allowed for ample social distancing. Beaches drew literal lines in the sand to keep people six feet apart. There were curbside restaurants and ad hoc drive-in movie theaters. Maybe things wouldn’t be the same as before, but you could make a trip of it.
The worsening situation feels both more dangerous and more disappointing. If you love to travel, there are few bigger let-downs than having to cancel a trip you’ve been dreaming about. In this moment, we’re all finding ourselves canceling or indefinitely postponing even straightforward vacations that are relatively close to home.
Our deeper divisions, the ones that transcend state and international borders, aren’t helping. There are the basic difficulties of traveling safely with anyone from another household. (Do you all get tested? Do you quarantine from each other, or all together, or both? Do you wear masks when you see each other? For how long? Indoors or outdoors?) And then there are the more insidious gulfs between us, the relatives who refuse to wear masks, the disagreements between friends about what distancing actually means. It’s easier to cancel a reservation at a resort in Cabo than to cancel your brother-in-law.
There is a word that some states — and groups of friends and family — are using to describe safe zones for travel and communication in a COVID-threatened world: a bubble. An official, state-defined “bubble” could eventually exist between Australia and New Zealand, and one is in place between the states of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. There are personal bubbles, too, carefully developed between like-minded friends and family members who are trying to stay connected in precarious times. Within these zones, there are no quarantines, no endless temperature checking. They create a facsimile of normalcy, a thing that allows for travel, but only within limits. With the ban of U.S. travelers from the EU, that region has become a kind of bubble itself, and we are officially, unceremoniously on the outside of it.
So how do we get ourselves back in? The answer is both simple and wildly daunting: beat the virus. Vaccinate it, or, until then, isolate it out of existence. Cover your face. Wash your hands. Minimize risk to yourself and those around you. This is how we’ll all get back — not into any single restrictive bubble, but into the world.
For those of us constantly craving new landscapes and experiences — a meal on the other side of the planet, a mountaintop six states away, a deep sense of interconnectedness — it feels, right now, like a very long journey. But who, of anyone, is better equipped to appreciate and learn from that, to find meaning in all of its winding turns, than a traveler.
Featured image by Alistair Berg and Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees