Coronavirus: Traveling now is like nothing I've seen before

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a man sitting in a car: A passenger looks at his phone while waiting aboard a United Airlines plane before taking off from George Bush Intercontinental Airport on May 11, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

I’ve been a correspondent at CNN for three decades and can conservatively estimate I have been on at least 2,000 flights in that time. I’ve been to all 50 states while covering stories for CNN, and none of them fewer than five times. So it doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me well that I’m still flying, staying in hotels, and renting cars while covering stories that are affecting all of us during this outbreak of the coronavirus.

We are doing this while taking as many precautions as possible. Getting infected and then getting somebody else sick would be extremely upsetting. But of course, my colleagues and I feel very strongly that we have an obligation to cover the news around the country so our viewers stay informed during these difficult times. And a question I am very frequently being asked is: What is it like to be constantly traveling at a time like this? My initial answer is: It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

I covered the California primary on March 3. The first cases of coronavirus had begun to infect people in the US, and a few voters wearing masks came into the Sacramento polling place where we were doing our live reports. It was very early on in this crisis, and the sight of masks was still unusual; but I was certain presidential politics would soon no longer be the biggest story on CNN.

I flew from Sacramento to Seattle to cover the tragedy that was unfolding at the initial epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in this country — the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. From that point on, I’ve been traveling to report this crisis. Over the last two months, I’ve been to 15 states, covering stories ranging from the tragically high death toll in Navajo Nation, to houses of worship holding services that violate state laws, to meat plants shutting down because hundreds of their workers are getting infected. If it were a movie, what I’ve seen would seem dystopian. But there are so many good people doing heroic things. And that has given me faith. 

Almost immediately, I saw the numbers of passengers on planes plummet. The most people I’ve seen on any flight over the last two months has been about 70 on a Delta Boeing 757 that seats 199 people. But most of the planes I’ve flown on have had fewer than 30 passengers. On a Delta regional jet I took from Cincinnati back home to Atlanta there were five passengers on board a plane that seats 76 people. 


a man standing next to a car: Masks are now the norm, on cabin crew and passengers.

© Gary Tuchman/CNN
Masks are now the norm, on cabin crew and passengers.

n early February, none of the flight attendants I saw had masks. And very few of the passengers did. But gradually, more and more of the cabin crew and the passengers started wearing them. And now, masks are mandated or strongly recommended, depending on the airline. Each carrier does things a bit differently; but having flown Delta the most over the last few months, here is what I’ve seen on those flights: There are no longer carts going through the aisles, and there is no alcohol, coffee, or soft drinks being served. There are no meals being offered, in coach or first class. You are advised to bring your own food or drinks on the plane. Water is given out by request and sometimes cookies or other small snacks. What is always being made available to passengers are packets of Purell. 

Delta is currently not assigning people to the middle seats. I’ve also been flying Southwest, and that airline doesn’t have assigned seating, but only sells the number of tickets that enable you to avoid sitting in a middle seat. So, while you may not be six feet away from the person on the aisle if you’re by the window, at least you have nobody right next to you. (Unless it’s your companion and you want to sit next to them.) During flight announcements, you are often encouraged to wash your hands, and you are given the prudent advice that in case you need to use oxygen masks, you should take off your current mask.

Boarding the flight has also changed. Before this all began, you boarded by zones; based on a combination of frequent flyer status, price you paid for the ticket, and airline algorithms. Now, boarding is done like it used to be decades ago. The Delta agents start with the back of the plane and work their way to the front. (First class still gets to board at any point.) Because the planes have so few people, the boarding process is very quick, and for that reason, the planes I’ve been on have more often than not left the gate prior to the scheduled time.

After the planes arrive and pull into the jetway, passengers are advised to remember their social distancing when they walk off the plane. I have not seen anybody who has purposely crowded into anyone’s space. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen almost uniform politeness and awareness of social distancing on each flight I’ve been on. I have certainly noticed that people look at each other on the plane with a bit of uneasiness, and I know passengers wonder why the others on the plane are traveling. There is indeed a strange vibe while you’re on such a relatively empty aircraft, with everyone wearing masks except when you’re drinking water or eating your snacks. 

a couple of people that are standing in a room: No luck at McCarran -- the airport slots were cordoned off.

© Gary Tuchman/CNN
No luck at McCarran — the airport slots were cordoned off.

But in kind of a strange way, the whole flying experience is easier. In addition to having far more room on the plane, the TSA security lines in many of the airports I’ve been in are virtually empty. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic. On one weekday afternoon recently, I saw just two people waiting to go through the main security checkpoint. On a comparable afternoon just three months ago, you would have seen hundreds of people. The airport terminals themselves often look like quiet bus stations. Most of the stores and restaurants I’ve seen are temporarily closed. In the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, I saw a sight that made sense in the context of this pandemic, but still seemed stunning: all the airport slot machines were off limits and roped off.

Just as jarring as the airports and airplanes are the hotels. Every place I’ve stayed has been mostly empty. In Iowa, I stayed in a 195-room hotel that only had five rooms sold. And my satellite truck engineer, photographer, and I had three of them. The manager said that earlier in the week, there was only one guest. Most hotels where I’ve stayed no longer have housekeeping service during your stay, and restaurants, bars, and gyms are closed. But the employees I have talked to have been excessively kind and helpful. They are grateful they have jobs which means they are grateful for every guest who stays with them.

The rental car agencies are also suffering. On a trip to Kansas City during the middle of April, I hopped on the rental car shuttle that serves all the rental companies doing business at the airport. The driver of the shuttle told me he had been working for six hours and I was only the third person he had on the bus. He said there was one other bus in operation, and I saw that driver when we got to the rental cars. He told me that over a four-hour period he had driven two customers.

Over the last three months, I have been to big cities like New York and Los Angeles. Medium-size cities like Kansas City and Omaha. And small cities like Waterloo, Iowa, and Gallup, New Mexico, mostly with producer Leslie Perrot and photographer Ken Tillis. What we have noticed is virtually everywhere we’ve been, whether it’s a grocery store, a Target or Walmart, or a gas station convenience store, people are almost always abiding by social distancing. It’s become second nature in all parts of America we’ve visited, no matter how severe their coronavirus outbreak. 

There is absolutely a far higher percentage of people wearing masks in public in big cities like New York and Los Angeles than there is in Mankato, Minnesota (where we just did a story on pig farmers), but when I walked into the Hy-Vee grocery store in Mankato, everyone was conscientiously standing at least six feet from the nearest person.

There is no end in sight to this crisis, which means there is no end in sight to our coverage of it. For me, that means more flying, hotel nights, and rental cars during this pandemic. I will continue to be as careful as possible when it comes to my health and the health of every person I come near. But just like when I’ve been in war zones, in hurricanes, and in riots, this is my job. And my duty.

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Highlands is destination Brits want to visit post-coronavirus crisis

Revealed: The Scottish Highlands tops a ‘lust list’ of UK destinations that Britons want to visit post-coronavirus crisis

  • Research has revealed the top search results for UK holidays in the past month 
  • Snowdonia is the second most popular destination followed by Yorkshire Dales
  • Other sought-after locations include Cornwall, the Lake District and Kent
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The Scottish Highlands is the most-searched-for destination for a UK bucket list holiday – post-coronavirus crisis – according to new research.

The region has proved more popular than Snowdonia, which is the second most sought-after location.

The next three most popular spots are Yorkshire Dales (third), Cornwall (fourth) and the Lake District (fifth).

The Scottish Highlands is the most sought-after destination for a post-coronavirus UK holiday, new research has found. Pictured is the Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West Highland Line, which Harry Potter fans will be very familiar with

The research was carried out by holiday rental marketplace, which looked at its internal data to reveal the top search results for UK holiday destinations in the last month as Britons plan future holidays while on lockdown. 

Other popular places that Britons want to visit, when it is safe to do so, are the Peak District, which is in sixth place, and Kent, which is in seventh place.

Also making the top 10 are London in eighth, the Brecon Beacons in ninth and County Antrim in 10th.

Completing the top 15 are Edinburgh (11th), the Gower Peninsula (12th), Bath (13th), Brighton (14th) and the Shetland Islands (15th).

Snowdonia, pictured, is the second most sought-after destination for a UK holiday, when it is safe to take one

Pictured is the Yorkshire Dales, which is the third most-searched-for destination 

Cornwall, with its beaches and pretty harbours, is the fourth most popular destination

Meanwhile, has also noted a 30 per cent rise in searches for holidays in 2021 since the government told people to stay at home.

It found that when it asked people what type of destinations they most longed to visit, 45 per cent said they would like to go to the beach or somewhere along the coast, 28 per cent wanted to go to the countryside and 17 per cent wanted a city break.

Matt Fox, CEO and co-founder of, said: ‘It is a tough time for the travel industry at the moment, with the majority of the British public avoiding making concrete plans until there is more reassurance and stability moving forward.

‘However, we have definitely noticed an increased interest over the past couple of weeks towards certain destinations, and we can only surmise that Brits are eagerly planning dream trips to take around the UK when it is safe to do so.

‘We are confident that the British tourism industry will bounce back, and it is looking as though there will be a greater appreciation for the amazing spaces that Britain has to offer and a desire to visit some of the more remote and wild locations within the British Isles once we have put this episode behind us.’


1. Scottish Highlands

2. Snowdonia

3. Yorkshire Dales

4. Cornwall

5. Lake District

6. Peak District

7. Kent

8. London

9. Brecon Beacons

10. County Antrim

11. Edinburgh

12. The Gower Peninsula

13. Bath

14. Brighton

15. Shetland Islands



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Cloudbeds is linking healthcare providers with hotels

With the spread of Covid-19 triggering a shortage of
hospital beds nationwide, hotel software company Cloudbeds is hoping U.S.
hotels, many of which are now nearly or completely empty, can rally to help
fill the gap. 

On March 23, the San Diego-based startup debuted
#Hospitalityhelps, an online platform designed to connect property owners and
operators with local governments and healthcare providers in need of overflow

“In a recent calculation we’ve seen, we need around 300,000
additional hospital beds to solve this crisis in North America alone,” said
Cloudbeds co-founder and CEO Adam Harris. “That’s a scary number. But the hotel
industry has well above that, easily.” 

Under the #Hospitalityhelps initiative, hoteliers can submit
an online form at to make their properties available,
while government and healthcare agencies can email [email protected] to
outline their needs. 

Cloudbeds has leveraged its network of more than 22,000
hotel partners to get the word out while collaborating with technology
providers, OTAs, management companies and other industry players to widen the
platform’s reach. As of March 24, more than 25,000 beds had been made available
via #Hospitalityhelps. 

Cloudbeds co-founder and COO Richard Castle said, “We’re
getting people way outside of our customer base, and we’ve even had competitors
come to us and ask about how they can participate. We don’t want this to be
about Cloudbeds. If anything, we’re actually trying to distance our brand from

Cloudbeds hopes the #Hospitalityhelps portal will improve
the existing ad hoc system, in which local governments are left scrambling to
find hotel partners and sending out mass request for proposals (RFPs). 

“We’re trying to remove that fragmentation,” Harris said.

Complicating matters, Castle said, is the fact that
accommodation needs are evolving quickly and will likely go far beyond just
providing beds for the critically ill. 

“We’re going to need more than a few hundred-thousand beds
nationwide,” Castle said. “We’ve got people who need to be quarantined. We’ve
got homeless people who need to get off the streets, because the virus will
spread throughout their community rampantly. We’ve got nurses and doctors who
should be living in proximity to where they’re working. They’re working
prolonged shifts, and they may not want to go home to their families because
they don’t know if [they or their families] have been infected. This is
essentially like massive group business for hotels.” 

The rush to meet these myriad needs is already hitting high
gear. In Chicago, for example, officials have moved quickly to rent hotel rooms
capable of housing between 1,000 and 2,000 patients. Likewise, in San
Francisco, city supervisors have circulated an RFP and are reportedly working
to make approximately 8,500 hotel rooms available to the homeless, healthcare
workers and first responders before the end of March. 

Castle acknowledged that some government RFPs indicate there
are monetary incentives available to hotels, but he emphasized that the vast
majority of properties participating in #Hospitalityhelps “aren’t even asking
about compensation.” 

“We’re hoping businesses won’t have to completely shut down,
the healthcare system can get some relief and that there’s stimulus coming down
the line,” Harris said. “Most importantly, if we can step this up, this can
make a difference and save lives.” 

Meanwhile, Cloudbeds isn’t alone in its efforts. The
American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) recently unveiled Hotels for
Hope, a similar initiative designed to connect hotel properties with the health

According to a release from the AHLA, Hotels for Hope has
more than 6,500 U.S. properties located in proximity to healthcare facilities
at the ready. The organization has said it will work to assist government
efforts and work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in
coordination with the U.S. Army and local emergency management and public
health agencies. 

Hoteliers interested in joining the Hotels for Hope database
can find more information here. 

“The number of hotels wanting to be part of the program is
growing by the hour,” said Michael Jacobson, CEO and president of the Illinois
Hotel & Lodging Association. “Our hotels are answering the call to action.”

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A woman is using household objects to recreate Disney rides after her vacation was canceled due to coronavirus

a woman taking a selfie

  • A woman named Jess Siswick is trending after sharing videos of herself using household objects to recreate beloved Disney theme-park rides.
  • So far, she’s recreated attractions like Soarin’, The Haunted Mansion, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
  • Speaking to Insider, Siswick said she was inspired to create the videos after her upcoming trip to Florida was canceled.
  • She’s now encouraging others to join in on the fun by making their own DIY Disney attractions at home.

Disney World temporarily shut down Monday to help prevent further spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 227,000 people worldwide.

Though the theme park plans to reopen after March 31, there’s really no telling how long Disney World will actually remain closed. As a result, thousands of people have been forced to cancel trips, reschedule vacations, and find new ways to stay entertained while social distancing at home.

For one woman in Washington, however, her canceled trip turned into a chance to get creative. 

Speaking to Insider, Siswick said she was planning to go to Florida for a work conference and Disney vacation when the coronavirus pandemic began.

“My best friend was gonna fly in and we were gonna have this amazing weekend, and I had to cancel,” Siswick said. “So I thought to myself, ‘How can I still be part of this work conference?’ And I started making these videos.”

“I documented myself getting on the plane, waiting outside my gate – which was just me with my feet up on my suitcase outside my bedroom door – and just trying to have fun with it that way.” 

This eventually led Siswick to recreate her cancelled Disney trip. She began her first video by using an Amazon Echo Dot as a Magic Band reader, which allows parkgoers to enter Disney properties. She then used a rolling desk chair to “ride” the Mad Tea Party, and a crystal ball to mirror The Haunted Mansion, which she describes as her favorite ride.

With @DisneyParks being closed. Looks like I’ll just have to recreate them myself. First stop: Magic Kingdom #homemadedisney

She later recreated Spaceship Earth using a soccer ball, and poked fun at the long lines parkgoers typically encounter when trying to ride Frozen Ever After.

Guys. EPCOT is so beautiful in the evening #HomemadeDisney

There is never a line for Frozen Ever After at homemade EPCOT #HomeMadeDisney #QuarantineLife

Similarly, Siswick highlighted the struggles of getting on one of the newest rides at Disney World and Disneyland: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

I have the entire park to myself and I still can’t get on Rise of the Resistance! #HomemadeDisney #DisneyWorld

“When the world is on fire outside, you’ll do anything to make yourself laugh and feel happy,” Siswick said.

Soarin’ is an attraction found at Disneyland and Disney World, during which parkgoers are placed in front of a giant screen that makes them feel as though they’re flying over famous landmarks. The ride also utilizes scents and motion to make the experience more realistic.

Siswick told Insider that she “couldn’t believe it” when her recreation of the ride started trending.

“I think what’s made that one tickle people so much is the little details I put in there, like pulling on the yellow strap to make sure you’re strapped in, and the smells you get as you’re soaring over,” she said.

Got my fresh air today Soarin’ over California at California adventure #disneyland #HomemadeDisney

Above each DIY video, Siswick includes the hashtag #homemadedisney. People have since started using the phrase to share their own homemade attractions.

“It’s been great,” Siswick said of the response to her videos.

“One kid sent me a video last night of him recreating all the droids in the line of Star Tours, and it just made me so happy,” she continued. “I’m getting comments from people saying ‘I needed this’ or ‘this made me smile today,’ and it’s just been so uplifting. It’s just a break from all the terrible news that’s going on right now.”

Thank you for riding star tours… buh bye! #HomemadeDisney

come to #HomemadeDisney we got snacks!

My #HomemadeDisney effort is Trader Sam’s.

No wait for #homemadedisney star tours! (Inspired by @tinymallet

“This morning I found an old wig head in my closet, which I have an idea for,” she said. “I’m still looking around to see what I can use to try and recreate more. I’m trying to do the classics.”

Siswick also said she’d love to collaborate with people to create joint videos. However, she first must recreate the Disneyland version of Pirates of the Caribbean, which was a request from a fellow Twitter user.

I accept this challenge. #HomemadeDisney

Whether your vacation has been cancelled or you’re simply looking for ways to pass the time, Siswick says the best way to experience Disney at home is to “embrace the details” of what makes Disney vacations so magical. 

“Play park music to lift your spirits,” she said. “I saw someone posting a recipe to make Mickey pretzels and ice-cream bars. You can sit and watch ride point-of-view videos, but it’s having those little details and those little magic moments that takes it over the edge.” 

Related video: Disney fan creates Magic Kingdom parade at home after trip gets canceled (provided by USA Today)

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Viking is suspending sea voyages until May 1

Viking has announced that it will be suspending all river and ocean cruise operations until May 1, 2020, in response to developments of Covid-19. 

a large ship in a body of water: Viking river cruise

In a video message sent to currently booked guests, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen revealed that in recent days, a river guest in Southeast Asia was exposed to the virus while in transit on an international airline. Though she has not yet exhibited symptoms, she and the 28 other guests have been placed in quarantine. 

Likewise, ports of call like Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen have been shut off to cruise ships, while major attractions like the Vatican have also been closed. 

“I am writing today because the situation has now become such that operating as a travel company involves significant risks of quarantines or medical detentions, which could diminish the travel experiences for which our guests have been planning,” wrote Hagen. 

“Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations of our river and ocean vessels embarking from March 12 to April 30, 2020 — at which time we believe Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences our guests expect and deserve. This is a decision we made with a heavy heart, but with present circumstances what they are, we are unable to deliver the high-quality Viking experience for which we are known.” 

Affected guests can either request a full refund or postpone their trip and receive a voucher valued at 125 percent of the price paid for their sea voyage.

While Viking has suspended trips, other major cruise companies have modified return policies and implemented stricter screening measures, but many continue to sail. 

Princess Cruises also announced Thursday that it would be suspending voyages on its ships worldwide for 60 days.

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How Coronavirus Is Impacting Disney World and Disneyland

With the busy spring break season upon us and COVID-19, aka novel coronavirus, today declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, families with plans to head to Walt Disney World and Disneyland have a lot of questions about how the virus could or should impact their travel plans.

a group of people walking on a city street: Main Street U.S.A and Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Internationally, four Disney parks remain closed in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai, although Shanghai has begun reopening its shopping and dining district. A Disneyland Paris worker tested positive for coronavirus but that park remains open.

Domestically, Walt Disney World and Disneyland also remain open for business. Dr. Pamela Hymel, Chief Medical Officer, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in a statement on the Disney Parks Blog that “Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort are open and welcoming guests and we continue to implement preventive measures in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as state and local health agencies.”

What Steps Is Disney Taking to Keep the Parks Safe?

In her statement, Hymel detailed the additional steps Disney is taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other diseases in the parks, including “frequent cleaning and disinfection of targeted areas,” “easy access to handwashing facilities and hand sanitizers,” and “frequent cleaning of outdoor locations, including walkways and queue.”

Hand sanitizer stations have been added throughout the parks, and today new portable handwashing stations began showing up at Walt Disney World. Disney has published the locations of many of the hand sanitizer stations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Should Travelers Keep Their Plans to Visit Disney Parks and Resorts?

It’s well known by now that the CDC is recommending that high-risk individuals, mainly older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease, avoid crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential air travel.

But, for healthy individuals, it remains more of a personal choice. A statement by a coalition of 150 travel-related organizations issued by the U.S. Travel Association seeks to reassure healthy travelers:

“Though the headlines may be worrisome, experts continue to say the overall coronavirus risk in the U.S. remains low. At-risk groups are older individuals and those with underlying health conditions, who should take extra precautions. The latest expert guidance indicates that for the overwhelming majority, it’s OK to live, work, play and travel in the U.S.”

A Doctor’s Take

We asked Dr. Colleen Nash, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Rush University Children’s Hospital and Medical Director of the Pediatrics Antimicrobial Stewardship Program for her advice on how families should decide whether to take a Disney vacation. She recommends families evaluate the potential outcomes.

“Visiting a theme park or partaking in any activity involving very large crowds always poses a risk of (any) infection transmission,” she says. She suggests those considering travel evaluate the health of those in their party as well as family members back home and how illness could potentially affect them.

Even for healthy individuals, she recommends considering “how coronavirus infection (if it were to happen) could impact your family and if that is a tolerable risk and potential time away from school, work, normal daily activities, say, if you had to undergo quarantine.”

For those comfortable with those possible outcomes, there aren’t currently any official recommendations that go against proceeding with travel plans.

What’s It Like to Be at Walt Disney World Right Now

I visited Walt Disney World last week and found almost no discernible difference in the experience from other times I’ve visited the parks. This week, aside from the noticeable uptick in hand-sanitizing stations and handwashing stations, it feels like business as usual for vacationing families. Meet-and-greets, buffet meals, and other higher-contact experiences haven’t been reduced.

Len Matela of Western Springs, Illinois, is currently at Walt Disney World with his wife and three sons and said the main difference their family noticed was that guests were utilizing personal hand sanitizer and hand-sanitizing stations more frequently.

“We’re not germaphobes so it’s not stressing us out,” Matela says. “If you didn’t watch the news or look at your phone and continuously see new information about the virus spreading, you wouldn’t notice any changes.”

Matela says concerns about the virus haven’t impacted their vacation at all. “We’re having a blast,” he says, noting that worries don’t seem to have had an effect on crowd levels yet. “Selfishly we were hoping for smaller lines and less of a crowd!!”

What If Disney Does Decide to Close Walt Disney World or Disneyland?

Should the spread of coronavirus or official government recommendations lead the domestic parks to make the decision to close, as was the case in Asia, it’s safe to assume Disney will offer refunds of park tickets and resort stays, as they’ve done in Asia. Should guests electively cancel a Disney vacation, standard resort cancellation terms will apply. Park tickets are changeable but non-refundable.

Now that most major airlines have issued waivers and have given travelers the flexibility and peace of mind to change their flights without fees, guests who are planning or looking forward to planned Disney vacations should feel reassured that any official park closures will likely see them fully reimbursed or able to change their vacation plans without fees.

How to Stay Healthy During Your Disney Vacation

We asked Dr. Nash what families can do to stay healthy during a Disney trip, and they are much the same as recommendations you’ve been hearing across the news media—mainly, wash your hands!

She recommends frequent, meticulous handwashing or hand sanitizing before and after meals and regularly at the parks, particularly after each ride.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands (and doing it well, at least 20 seconds, with soap and water OR using alcohol-based hand sanitizer) and not touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth),” she says. “This provides so much protection against many infectious diseases and cannot be overstated.”

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