University of Chicago Medicine Breast Cancer June 2022
Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Precautions kept this traveler safe

By Ray Hanania

My family is Middle Eastern, and I have traveled all my life. The war of 1948 that chased my Christian parents and relatives from their homes in Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem spread them throughout the world.

They ended up in Jamaica, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia and, of course, throughout the United States.

RayHanania 1

Ray Hanania

My family then immigrated legally and nurtured a strong love for America that you often don’t see among the immigrants of today.

So, I travel a lot. Traveling is in my blood. If the pandemic has done anything to me besides reinforce health concerns as a senior citizen over the past 19 months, it has made me long for the ability to return to vacation.

I live a modest life, work very hard, and I save money. You don’t see that a lot in today’s society where many people want everything for free or believe they are entitled.

I pay a lot of taxes but apparently not enough to cover the void created by laziness, entitlement and “envy spite.” That’s where someone wants what you have and hates you for it.

I finally got to travel last week, to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We had to prepare as a family. I got my Pfizer shots. I wear a mask almost all the time except when I am with my immediate family. I scrub my hands with sanitizer frequently and go through it as fast as I consume Diet Coke.

Flying is always a concern. I would get sick on an airplane long before COVID-19 became a frightening and deadly acronym. This was long before the novel coronavirus surpassed gun control and abortion as the most contentious political debate topics.

But if the pandemic did anything, it forced Americans to start focusing more on ways to stay healthy, rather than on the kind of health insurance you have. Many illnesses have a lot to do not with the kind of healthcare you have, but your cleanliness practices. There are always exceptions; but for the most part, failing to take care of yourself and embracing unhealthy practices increase your chances of getting sick.

That’s why I am a big believer in wearing a face mask. I ignore the political exploitation of the pandemic by the far right and far left, focusing on the common-sense practicality of taking precautions.

It’s still risky going on vacation. Those who don’t take precautions or think a face mask is a violation of your constitutional rights, are exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.

The real COVID crazies are the ones who pretend it is not a threat and use it for their political profit.

People who travel should get vaccinated and wear a face mask.

The Dominican Republic and the airlines require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to board the plane. When you return, you are required to take an antigen nasal test three days before you return. That requirement is imposed by the airlines and the country you are returning to.

It makes sense. I know how Americans think about COVID-19. I don’t know if foreigners do.

I wore a mask throughout the vacation at the resort. I also wore it O’Hare, where we boarded the Frontier airplane (which claims to be cheaper, but really is more expensive than the better-known airlines).

I wore a mask at the airport on arrival in the Dominican Republic. Going through customs. Waiting for my bags. In the transit ride. At the hotel in the lobby. I only took it off when I was with my family in the room or on the beach. Or, when I was eating dinner.

The hotel took precautions, too. You had to wear plastic gloves to get food from the buffet. Every employee was vaccinated and wore masks all the time. Hand sanitizers were everywhere. It was like being at Costco on a weekend when they had free food stations throughout. Much of the food was cooked fresh.

But at the end of the vacation, you had to take that test. The nurse told me one out of 20 people tested positive for COVID-19. Mostly people from places outside of the U.S. When you test positive for COVID, you are not allowed back into the United States or allowed on the plane. You are quarantined for two weeks.

What that means is you are placed in a room at the far end of the hotel, where you sit for two weeks with air conditioning, a TV and internet at no cost to you.

They provide food, paid for by the government. You can’t go to the beach. The cleaning staff wears full body covers like in the movie Contagion. You can’t leave the room. Two weeks of misery, then you purchase your own return ticket when released.

We took the test, and it was negative because we didn’t drop our guard. I don’t want to take a chance. I know I am responsible. The problem is, I don’t know how responsible other people are.

It only takes one exposure to get sick, and your state of health determines whether you live or die.

Check out Ray Hanania’s work at hanania.com.

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