I compare how the U.S. is handling COVID-19 to how we’ve been handling the right to carry assault weapons around in WalMart. In certain parts of the country (mostly South and North with pockets in the upper Midwest), the traditional American tradition of “personal liberty” rules supreme. That concept places the rights of the individual over the detriment to the community.
Law school includes, very early on, the classic example of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. You can’t do it because just taking that action can produce injuries and possibly death that can only be justified if there really is a fire. It’s an easy approach to remember once you’ve thought about it even briefly.
I happen the limit on personal liberty applies to wearing masks as well. Nobody can be absolutely certain that they don’t have COVID-19. Moreover, you can be mostly contagious when you don’t have any symptoms. Therefore, you must wear one if you are near anyone other than those with whom you’re quarantined. End of story. It’s not optional. If it’s inconvenient, I don’t care. It’s my life you’re fooling with. Moreover, because you may give COVID-19 to the person near you, they can then give it to someone else. Just wear the damn mask.
So it makes perfects sense to me that the European Union is likely to bar our travelers. We, as a national culture, are being totally irresponsible. The American choice to exalt personal freedom over community harm is simply unacceptable, as well it should be. Bravo E.U. Stay alive.
BRUSSELS — European Union countries rushing to revive their economies and reopen their borders after months of coronavirus restrictions are prepared to block Americans from entering because the United States has failed to control the scourge, according to draft lists of acceptable travelers seen by The New York Times.
That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States, which has more than 2.3 million cases and upward of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country.
European nations are currently haggling over two potential lists of acceptable visitors based on how countries are faring with the coronavirus pandemic. Both lists include China, as well as developing nations like Uganda, Cuba and Vietnam. Both also exclude the United States and other countries that were deemed too risky because of the spread of the virus.
Travelers from the United States and the rest of the world already had been excluded from visiting the European Union — with few exceptions mostly for repatriations or “essential travel” — since mid-March. But a final decision on reopening the borders is expected early next week, before the bloc reopens on July 1.
A prohibition of Americans by Brussels partly reflects the shifting pattern of the pandemic. In March, when Europe was the epicenter, Mr. Trump infuriated European leaders when he banned citizens from most European Union countries from traveling to America. Mr. Trump justified the move as necessary to protect the United States, which at the time had roughly 1,100 coronavirus cases and 38 deaths.
In late May and early June, Mr. Trump said Europe was “making progress” and hinted that some restrictions would be lifted soon, but nothing has happened since then. Today, Europe has largely curbed the outbreak, even as the United States, the worst-afflicted, has seen more infection surges just in the past week.
Prohibiting American travelers from entering the European Union would have significant economic, cultural and geopolitical ramifications. Millions of American tourists visit Europe every summer. Business travel is common, given the huge economic ties between the United States and the E.U.
Despite the disruptions caused by such a ban, European officials involved in the talks said it was highly unlikely an exception would be made for the United States. They said that the criteria for creating the list of acceptable countries had been deliberately kept as scientific and nonpolitical as possible.
Including the United States now, the officials said, would represent a complete flouting of the bloc’s reasoning. But they said the United States could be added later to the list, which will be revised every two weeks based on updated infection rates.
It was unclear if American officials were aware in advance of the exclusion of the United States from the draft lists, which have not been made public.
The draft lists were shared with the Times by an official involved in the talks and confirmed by another official involved in the talks. Two additional European Union officials confirmed the content of the lists as well the details of the negotiations to shape and finalize them. All of the officials gave the information on condition of anonymity because the issue is politically delicate.
The forging of a common list of outsiders who can enter the bloc is part of an effort by the European Union to fully reopen internal borders among its 27 member states. Free travel and trade among members is a core principle of the bloc — one that has been badly disrupted during the pandemic.
Since the outbreak, the bloc has succumbed to piecemeal national policies that have resulted in an incoherent patchwork of open and closed borders.
Some internal borders have practically remained closed while others have opened. Some member states that desperately need tourists have rushed ahead to accept non-E.U. visitors and pledged to test them on arrival. Others have tried to create closed travel zones between certain countries, called “bubbles” or “corridors.”
Putting these safe lists together highlights the fraught, messy task of removing pandemic-related measures and unifying the bloc’s approach. But the imperatives of restoring the internal harmony of the E.U. and slowly opening up to the world are paramount, even if it threatens rifts with close allies including the United States, which appears bound to be excluded, at least initially.
President Trump, as well as his Russian and Brazilian counterparts, Vladimir V. Putin and Jair Bolsonaro, has followed what critics call a comparable path in their pandemic response that leaves all three countries in a similarly bad spot: they were dismissive at the outset of the crisis, slow to respond to scientific advice and saw a boom of domestic cases as other parts of the world, notably in Europe and Asia, were slowly managing to get their outbreaks under control.
Countries on the E.U. draft lists have been selected as safe based on a combination of epidemiological criteria. The benchmark is the E.U. average number of new infections — over the past 14 days — per 100,000 people, which is currently 16 for the bloc. The comparable number for the United States is 107, while Brazil’s is 190 and Russia’s is 80, according to a Times database.
Once diplomats agree on a final list, it will be presented as a recommendation early next week before July 1. The E.U. can’t force members to adopt it, but European officials warn that failure of any of the 27 members to stick to it could lead to the reintroduction of borders within the bloc.
The reason this exercise is additionally complex for Europe is that, if internal borders are open but member states don’t honor the same rules, visitors from nonapproved nations could land in one European country, and then jump onward to other E.U. nations undetected.
European officials said the list would be revised every two weeks to reflect new realities around the world as nations see the virus ebb and flow.
The process of agreeing on it has been challenging, with diplomats from all European member states hunkering down for multiple hourslong meetings for the past few weeks.
As of Tuesday, the officials and diplomats were poring over the two versions of the safe list under debate, and were scheduled to meet again on Wednesday to continue sparring over the details.
- Frequently Asked Questions and Advice Updated June 22, 2020
- Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask? A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
- I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work? The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
- What is pandemic paid leave? The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
- Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen? So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
- What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface? Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
- How does blood type influence coronavirus? A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
- How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.? The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
- My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out? States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
- What are the symptoms of coronavirus? Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
- How can I protect myself while flying? If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
- What should I do if I feel sick? If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
- How do I get tested? If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
One list contains 47 countries and includes only those nations with an infection rate lower than the E.U. average. The other longer list has 54 countries and also includes those nations with slightly worse case rates than the E.U. average, going up to 20 new cases per 100,000 people.
The existing restrictions on nonessential travel to all 27 member states plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein were introduced on March 16 and extended twice until July 1, in a bid to contain the virus as the continent entered a three-month long confinement.
“Discussions are happening very intensively,” to reach consensus in time for July 1, said Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch. He called the process “frankly, a full-time job.”
The E.U. agency for infectious diseases, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, warned negotiators that the case numbers were so dependent on the level of truthfulness and testing in each country, that it was hard to vouch for them, officials taking part in the talks said.
China, for example, has been accused of withholding information and manipulating the numbers of infections released to the public. In parts of the developing world, case numbers are very low, but it’s hard to determine whether they paint an accurate picture given limited testing.
And in the United States, comments made by President Trump at a rally in Tulsa over the weekend highlighted how easy it is to manipulate a country’s case numbers, as he suggested that domestic testing was too broad.
“When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Mr. Trump told supporters. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test.”
European embassies around the world could be enlisted to help verify or opine on the data provided that would inform the final list, negotiators said, another indication that the list could end up being quite short if European diplomats at embassies said reported numbers were unreliable.
Many European Union countries are desperate to reopen their borders to visitors from outside the region to salvage tourism and boost airlines’ revenue while keeping their own borders open to each other. Some have already started accepting visitors from outside the bloc.
At the other extreme, a few European nations including Denmark are not prepared to allow any external visitors from non-E.U. countries, and are likely to continue with this policy after July 1.
Germany, France and many other E.U. nations want non-European travelers to be allowed, but are also worried about individual countries tweaking the safe list or admitting travelers from excluded countries, officials said.
Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels, and Albert Sun from New York.