Staying cool in spring break hot zones


West Texas A&M University students have just a few more days before spring break, and that means travelling. Whether your personal travel plans are domestic or international, odds are that any destination you plan on travelling to has been affected by the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19 or the coronavirus. 

WTAMU’s president Dr. Walter Wendler issued a statement last week announcing that all university sponsored international travel is suspended until further notice, and recommending that students and university personnel cancel all travel plans and stay in the Panhandle area during spring break. As disappointing as that may sound to friends and family who planned on seeing you, travel to a confirmed hot zone could result in a government-mandated 14 day quarantine. WTAMU even has a webpage where you can report your travel plans in case a quarantine is necessitated. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a list of frequently asked questions regarding the transmission of the disease. Particularly, they posted that “Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes,” so the fears over air travel are largely unfounded aside from potential physical contact with sick patients. 

So if flying is mostly safe, and driving is about as safe as you make it, where does the fear of transmission come from? How can you avoid getting sick?

NPR posted a handy list on how to quell anxiety over the virus. Some ways to manage the fear of infection include planning ahead to what you will do if the virus reaches your community, like making plans to work from home or deal with a school closing. NPR also suggests to prioritize getting good sleep, exercise, and eating well to maintain your overall wellbeing and protect your immune system. 

If you do find yourself travelling to a hot zone next week, practice some basic precautions; wash your hands for 20-30 seconds, maybe to music (some personal favorites to sing are the choruses of Africa by Toto, Truth Hurts by Lizzo, Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, and Toss a Coin to Your Witcher four times back to back), sneeze or cough into your sleeve, and wipe down surfaces as much as possible. And remember that face masks are reported to not have any real impact on the spread if you are already practicing good hygiene. 

It is totally possible to enjoy your spring break safely, healthily, and without being West Texas’s patient zero. Practice your basic hygiene just as you would during any flu or cold outbreak and you should be able to return to school with a clean bill of health.