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Hawaii never looked so close, and yet so far

Jody Vance: Desperate airlines are about to start offering irresistible deals. But until travel is safer – or COVID-19 is defeated – resist we must.
Great. Just don’t exhale.

Aloha. Who doesn’t want a Hawaiian vacation? Sun, surf, sand, mai tais, and an escape from it all.

As of September 1, 2020, Hawaii is an option for Canadians without quarantine.

As a prime example of an economy that will starve without tourism, Hawaii has a plan. Travellers will be welcome – so long as they arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours.

With more flights flagged for COVID-19 exposure announced almost daily, in BC many are searching for an elusive middle.

There’s a reason RV sales have spiked. Few are choosing to fly, and for good reason: the protections are simply not there. Forget a low bar, there’s no bar, short of temperature checks, easily masked with Advil or Tylenol, and no screen at all for asymptomatic carriers.

With great respect to the hardworking, and heavily impacted travel agents, baggage handlers, and flight crews — never mind hoteliers, restaurateurs et al, federal aviation rules are simply not enough to protect us from COVID-19.

Why are we flying without better safety requirements? Why were early pandemic physical distancing rules – such as leaving the middle seat unoccupied – lifted?

It’s not enough for politicians to continue the “we need to keep our airlines running” mantra. Do we? Need to? If so, first fix what’s broken. Full, non-physically distant flights are wrong right now, full stop.

This isn’t just a gut feeling, or irrational fear; airline COVID exposure is on the rise. Yesterday alone there were seven more flights that either arrived or left BC with at least one COVID-positive person on board. Since June 3rd we’ve had 36 flagged flights both, international and domestic.

This is a fail.

With international travellers there are quarantine requirements, but domestic flights have zero restrictions, and flight manifests lack enough data for contact tracing.

This is a recipe for community spread, and a public health risk we simply should not be taking.

Our unflappable provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, even appears to quail (ever so slightly) when asked about air travel.

For now, not forever, perhaps we need to dial back the options to move about the country and keep more people staying local until we have a treatment or vaccine — or, at the very least, massively improved screening at Canadian airports.

This is not an anti-traveller idea, it is an anti-outbreak idea. (Don’t even get me started on 43 (and counting) positives on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship — are you serious?)

Every business must listen, and adapt, to what scientists are saying: Practice physical distancing and wear a mask when you can’t, stay home when sick, and make sure you can contact trace your bubble easily. Airlines should not be exempt.

The burning want to return to normal, pre COVID life, is universally shared. And yet equally universally out of reach.

We all want to go to Hawaii. Just not for now.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.