One Country’s Approach To COVID

Our trip to St. Lucia was the first time we’ve been out of the United States since the COVID pandemic turned the world topsy-turvy. It was interesting to see how a different country was dealing with the issues presented by a pandemic that still lingers after two years.

St. Lucia is one of those countries that requires a lot of documentation before you can enter. That’s totally understandable: it’s an island nation, and its health care facilities could be overwhelmed if there was a bad outbreak. The necessary paperwork includes vaccination cards and booster cards, on-line submission of travel authorization forms that have to be approved by the St. Lucia travel office, and proof of a negative COVID test that was taken within three days of your departure date. The three-day test and travel authorization approval can create some friction. You hope to get the test results quickly enough to transmit them to the travel office in plenty of time to get the approval.

In our case, we didn’t get the test results until the day before our departure and then hit a snag when the travel office asked us to retransmit data only a few hours before our early morning flight was scheduled to leave. That required us to do some scrambling at the airport, by calling the travel office to ask them to look at the resubmitted data and send a new authorization approval so that the airline could print it out on paper and we could take it as part of our packet of documentation. That started off our trip with a jolt of stress, but fortunately, thanks to the help of a friendly woman at the St. Lucia travel office, the very nice people behind the counter at American Airlines, and the fact that my uptight traveler ways caused us to get to the airport very early, we got the paperwork done and were on our way.

When we arrived in St. Lucia, we had to present all of our materials–vaccination and booster cards, printed travel authorization approval form, and negative test results–in the new first step of the arrival process. We waited in long lines as nurses wearing full COVID-proof garb, including face shields, went through the paperwork for each traveler and carefully examined the various materials. If you passed muster and were fully vaccinated, as we were, you were given a plastic wrist bracelet just like the kind you would get at an amusement park and told to wear it during your entire time in St. Lucia. (I’m not sure what was done with the unvaccinated.) Then, with bracelets on, we were directed to a different line for different officials to review our passports and other entrance forms.

On our drive from the airport to Ti Kaye we didn’t see any locals wearing masks or bracelets. At our resort, however, the staff always was masked, and the rule was for guests to wear masks in common areas, such as when you were entering the restaurants for lunch or dinner. At the upper restaurant, our wrist temperatures were taken and logged in a book whenever we showed up for breakfast and dinner, so somewhere there is a fulsome record of my temperature on each day of our stay. No one wore masks on the beach or poolside, and temperatures weren’t taken at the seaside grille where we had lunch.

The morning of the day before our departure we had another COVID test taken, by a nurse on site at Ti Kaye, and then got a document attesting that we had tested negative. We took that to the airport when we left. At the airport, we had our temperatures taken again and had to fill out an additional form attesting that we had tested negative, and then presented the airline desk with all of the paperwork (including our vaccination cards) in order to get our boarding passes. Whether it was the time involved in paperwork review or just the holiday travel crush, the airport featured long lines, and even though we got to the airport more than two hours before the flight we just barely caught our plane. When we finally got back to Columbus, early this morning, we breathed a sigh of relief and finally cut off our bracelets.

In short, if you’re traveling internationally, be prepared to jump through a few extra hoops, endure some stress, and pay careful attention to the paperwork requirements. And give yourself some extra time at the airport!

Cursed COVID

The Wall Street Journal reports that Americans are cursing more, thanks to COVID. The article notes that the use of “bad words” on social media and in general conversation has increased, and suggests that the epidemic of cussing is just another way in which the pandemic has changed our lives and our culture.

Why has this happened? Clearly, there is a lot of frustration out there–frustration about masks, restrictions, cancelled trips, an inability to lick this virus and get back to anything approaching the “old normal,” and countless other things–and that frustration finds its expression in increased use of obscenities. And according to the Journal article, the shift to more videoconferencing and remote work is part of the reason, too: “Pandemic stress, the melding of personal and professional spheres, and an exhausted slide toward casualness are making many of us swear more. It is “a perfect swearing storm,” says Michael Adams, a linguist at Indiana University Bloomington.” Another person quoted, memorably, by the Journal contends that cursing “is the yoga pants and Uggs of language”–which should cause anyone with even an ounce of self-respect to picture that image and pause before launching into their next profanity-laden tirade.

I have no doubt that, if you could somehow precisely measure it, you would find out that cursing has in fact increased, and that the Queen Mother of curses is often used to modify “COVID” and “pandemic.” The big issue with this linguistic impact, as with so many COVID-caused changes in society, is whether it is permanent or will end when the pandemic finally rides off into the sunset.

I’m hoping for the latter. I will certainly give everyone the benefit of the doubt during this unfortunate period in our lives, but I’m hoping that the end of the pandemic brings a return to more civility. I’ve seen and heard quite enough of yoga pants, sweat pants, Uggs and Crocs–of the actual or the verbal variety–over the last two years to last a lifetime.