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Traveling With Covid

Anybody who has not heard of COVID-19 and the pandemic has certainly self-isolated much too long. For months now, the entire world has been obsessed with COVID-19. Not exaggerating. And plenty of people worldwide now have become germaphobes. That is, they are terrified of germs and of catching the disease.

However, many people have decided that life must go on. And, in a peculiar way, they have invaded the U.P. With much of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan still under many state rules, many who have chosen to vacation anyway have come to the U.P. That includes not only Michiganders, but also people from surrounding states.
For many U.P. businesses, this has been a banner summer. However, many people are still wondering if they should travel — and if it’s safe.

On this, I chatted up Dennis Jankowski. He owns the Grey Wolf Lodge in Manistique and is a leader in the local tourism group made up of motel and hotel owners.
“What we are telling people is that good motels, like ours, have always had a policy of keeping their properties in good shape,” Dennis said. “And that has always meant cleaning them often and completely. Now, with COVID, we just clean a little more. We clean all touch surfaces and have strong disinfectants that kill all germs.”

He also assures me that the pool is kept clean and safe for clients, with proper chemical treatment. The chlorine and bromide “inactivate” the virus and should prevent its spread, according to an online posting by the Centers for Disease Control.

Dennis adds that with COVID, person-to-person transmission is possible, so the number of people in the pool is limited. Social distancing is encouraged, and people are required to wear masks.

“For us, we have beach access, and this summer many people have chosen to use the beach rather than the pool,” Dennis said. “They are outside and can social distance much better. Many just feel safer. They go down and swim, sunbathe and picnic and have bonfires at night. They are having a lot of fun.

“But,” he says, “there are still people who do not feel safe. For them, I suggest they look at staying home. We do all that we can to help stop the spread of COVID, but there is nothing anybody can to do totally eliminate the risk. So, if you do not feel comfortable, stay safe and stay home. But if you do want to come up here, we want you to know that we are doing everything possible to make your stay with us as safe and as enjoyable as possible.”

Years ago, I used to travel a lot; some years, perhaps as many as 100 nights a year in a motel. This was something else Dennis and I discussed. The majority of places I stayed were very clean and well kept. Just something motels have to do. Otherwise, they will get very few repeat clients.

However, from time to time, I did run into the occasional “flea bag hotel.” As in any industry, there are those places that are not an advertisement for what a motel should look and feel like.

So, I highly suggest, even during normal times, that if you walk into a motel and the place is not clean: Do not stay there. Leave and find a better place to stay. Why take the chance?

One of the other factors in traveling is gas stations. On this, most are now requiring that all persons wear masks to enter. Basically, the law of the land. However, again, some take this more seriously than others. So, when you stop for gas, you do have the option in most places to pay at the pump. That may be an option if you are worried about COVID.

Then, another bit of personal observation — namely, gas station restrooms. Most are cleaned pretty regularly; however, in some of the busiest gas stations, with all of the traffic we have been having in the U.P., there are usually lines of people waiting to use the restrooms.

And no matter how hard they try, there is just no way that the owners, operators and staff can completely clean a restroom every time somebody uses it. Just cannot be done. So, think that one over. Suddenly that bush beside the road looks better and better.

Also, this one just baffles me completely. In their ultimate wisdom, the state has shut down many of the restrooms at boat launches and parks. Instead they have now provided “porta-potties.”

Why? To stop the spread of COVID? Seriously. Using a “porta-potty” is safer than using a standard state outhouse? Not really sure on that logic. But it is what it is. And I am thinking that bush that my dog waters is looking more and more inviting.

Finally, restaurants and bars. Now, again, I am doing some personal observing. In the last couple months, I have spent quite a lot of time out on the road, eating in bars and restaurants.

Almost all require masks to enter. But, once again, I am baffled. Like a few days ago, I was up in Big Bay. Ate at a very nice bar/restaurant there. Masks were required.

So, I walked in … about 10 feet. Sat at the bar and was now no longer required to wear a mask. Few minutes later, two nicely dressed ladies come in. Do the same. Sit about 6 feet from me. Again, we are all legal.

Now, way back when, I used to own a restaurant. Back then, smoking was legal and popular inside restaurants and bars. I can remember the smoke drifting about the places.

So, I am sitting there, thinking, if the smoke drifted all over the restaurant, why can’t this COVID bug? I am sitting there, smelling all the smells, the cooking food, etc., and watching the smoke from the grill going up the blower and really wondering how long COVID hangs in the air.

On this, I recall recently listening to NPR Radio and hearing a discussion about how safe it is to ride bikes in public. Outside. On bike paths and trails. They were talking about a “breath plume” that follows along behind bike riders. Sometimes a fair distance behind the rider, it will still hang in the air.

Was thinking about that, and the two ladies sitting a few feet from me. Not really so sure it is completely safe.

But I am an adrenaline junkie. Motor sports photographer. Snowmobile rider. Former commercial fisherman. Former lumberjack. Ran a chainsaw, cutting down trees all day. Scared of a bug. Not so much.

But I do admit the disease is out there. And I do not blame some people for being worried, especially those with health conditions.

But from what I have seen, and from talking to Dennis, traveling is OK. It is not “completely” safe. And, probably never was and never will be. So, if you are OK with the risks, then by all means, get out there and travel and have fun. Those in the industry are doing all they can to keep you as safe as possible.

But if you do not feel comfortable, then stay home. If you go out, you will not feel happy. And, I have seen this, your personal concerns may also affect the enjoyment of those you travel with. So, your choice. Stay home and stay safe. Or, accept the risk and get out there and have fun.

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