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Monday, September 26, 2022

The Closing of a Pandemic Tracker Marks the Beginning of a New Travel Phase

Elisabeth Goodridge, the deputy Travel Editor for The New York Times, returned home to New York City from Brussels, where she had been on vacation with her family, just hours before President Donald J. Trump blocked all non-essential travel from Europe on March 11, 2020, in response to the spiralling coronavirus pandemic. Goodridge had been on vacation with her family in Brussels. Ms. Goodridge recalled that “countries began closing down” around this time.

Ms. Goodridge received an email from Ernesto Londoo, who was serving as the bureau head for The Times in Brazil at the time. The communication discussed travel restrictions that were also in force in the Caribbean and South America. Ms. Goodridge requested that Mr. Londoo compile a list of the newly imposed travel limitations, and she tasked the reporter Aimee Ortiz with covering travel restrictions in other locations, such as Europe and Asia. In a subsequent interview, Ms. Goodridge said that she has “a little PTSD” whenever she looks back at her Slack from “that weekend.”

It took a group effort to stay on top of all the regulations governing overseas travel. Over the course of the last two years, over a dozen reporters have made contributions to the list and worked to keep it updated on a weekly basis. Amy Virshup, who is in charge of the Travel section, noted that in the beginning, “it was all hands on deck since things were moving so quickly.” The freelance reporter Karen Schwartz was the most reliable contributor in 2021; the freelance reporter Paige McClanahan took over in December 2021, and she has been updating the list ever since, from her residence in the French Alps. In 2021, Karen Schwartz was the most reliable contributor.

Ms. McClanahan said that in order to bring the article up to date, she would work her way alphabetically through the list of nations, with the goal of checking 10–12 countries every day. When she was looking for new policies, she would contact embassies of the United States, as well as government health and foreign ministries, national tourist boards, and airline companies, by phone or their websites. Following that, she would check Twitter, the news, and an email inbox that the Travel department had created specifically for the purpose of receiving reader recommendations. She added, “I learned to have a feel of when regulations were likely to move,” and she explained how she had accomplished this. “Regions have a tendency to evolve in tandem.”

“It was a narrative of walls going up,” she added, referring to the time in December 2021 when the Omicron version first began to spread. “Over time, there was a change. As the months of February and March progressed, nations began to open their borders. She said that some nations modified their regulations on a weekly basis.

During the time that Ms. McClanahan was working at the Times, she said, readers would send emails to the travel inbox to share their own experiences or to urge her to check into certain locations. Sometimes, a reader’s question will spark a larger conversation. One example of this is when John Henretta, a 75-year-old Floridian, wrote in asking whether he would be able to go on his hiking trip to Switzerland nine months after receiving his booster shot. He wanted to know if this would be possible. Ms. McClanahan responded to the inquiry by saying, “You would think that would be a very basic thing to answer.” However, the response turned out to be so intricate that it required its own own essay concerning vaccination scheduling and how it relates to travelling internationally.

Many readers wrote in with travel inquiries that were either extremely detailed or quite personal. Ms. McClanahan expressed her feelings by saying, “I felt like a therapist.” “You could really really feel people’s bewilderment and concern about the regulations as they surrounded this topic,” she said.

A new chapter has started in the history of tourism in relation to the pandemic, despite the fact that the list has been a reliable source for tourists. Metrics collected at checkpoints by the Transportation Security Administration indicate that passenger volume is getting close to epidemic levels. According to Ms. Virshup, the tipping point occurred in the middle of June, when the United States lifted its demand that re-entry testing be completed. According to Suzanne MacNeille, an editor who worked on the project, the majority of nations now need merely documentation of vaccination in order to enter the country.

Ms. Goodridge said that there would be no further development of Covid. People are simply trying to figure out how to adapt their lives to accommodate it. And one thing that they did recognise, which was the value of travel in their life, was that there were millions of individuals.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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