Is Denver in the Danger Zone?

The American Physical Society has abruptly cancelled their March meeting…the day before it was to begin.

Many attendees are already in Denver, making this a rather ineffectual way to limit travel. It’s also the case that the World Health Organization is not recommending travel restrictions, so I’d be curious to know who argued for this cancellation, and why.

WHO continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COIVD-19 outbreaks.

In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions. Furthermore, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries. However, in certain circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful, such as in settings with few international connections and limited response capacities.

Maybe it has something to do with that last phrase — is the US now regarded as a country with limited response capacities? I hope not.

My wife is near Denver right now, and was traveling through the Denver airport yesterday. I hope this cancellation was an unnecessary over-reaction. I’m planning some meeting travel for the end of June myself, and I could imagine cancelling if the epidemic got much worse, but I wouldn’t wait until the day before!


  1. KG says

    Everywhere is in the danger zone. A prompt ban on all but essential air travel might have contained SARS-CoV-2, despite what WHO says – planes are by far the most effective vectors, not only enabling the virus to travel long distances very quickly, but giving it the opportunity to spread between passengers and crew, and taking it to new distribution centres – airports. Almost certainly too late now, but in any case, the sacred rights of the rich (who account for most air travel) must be preserved.

  2. says

    It is getting harder to separate danger zones from less dangerous zones.

    One contributing factor is the constant flow of misinformation from Hair Furor, and from rightwing media outlets.

    See comment 353 in the Political Madness thread. Bottom-feeder Alex Jones is taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to increase his grifting and scamming operations. An excerpt:

    Jones — notably not a member of the liberal media — is running segments like these:

    “Violent Leftists In A Coronavirus Quarantine Would Collapse Society”

    “How Globalists Justify Releasing the Coronavirus Bioweapon”

    “Lancet Model Predicts Hundreds Of Millions Dead From Coronavirus Outbreak”

    “Was Coronavirus Intended To Be Primer For Chinese Invasion Of America?”

    “Bioweapons Expert: Coronavirus Is Super Biological Weapon Never Encountered Before”

    “MSM Tries To Suppress Evidence That HIV Delivery System Is Embedded In Coronavirus”

    “Countdown: Top Ten Ways Coronavirus Will Be Used to Usher In Global Government”

    Alex Jones wants to sell you “Emergency Survival Foods.”

  3. says

    That’s a big deal… The APS March Meeting has over 10k participants. They seem to be following advice from the CDC rather than the WHO.

  4. jrkrideau says

    I am being snarky butm the answer to the question “is the US now regarded as a country with limited response capacities?” seems to be yes. The USA has the overall resources but comprehensive incompetence at the highest levels of government combined with a crazed medical deliver model means one fears that the US has limited response capacities at the moment. See

  5. says

    Speaking as someone who is co-leading a weeklong workshop in my area of science in early June, I sympathize with anyone who is thinking of canceling a meeting. We are agonizing about that. One can wait and see — for a while. But in the meantime, advise people not to buy an unbreakable airline ticket this early.

  6. peterellis says

    It’s not the travel per se, it’s the conference itself. How many people did you shake hands with at the last big conference you went to? How crowded was the area around the coffee table in the breaks? It’s not just about being in Denver, it’s about having big group where people circulate, introduce themselves, spend time crammed together in big auditoriums, etc.

  7. says

    Yeah, I’m a wait-and-see on my conference in late June. I’ll have to commit to tickets in mid-May, and if the situation worsens, I’ll regretfully stay home.

    I agree that a prompt ban would have done something, but it feels like it’s too late now. There are cases in Washington state that are clearly local transmission, and it has such a long incubation period there may be a swarm of new cases already simmering in the population.

  8. says

    A certain amount of it may be concern that someone might come to the conference and get stranded. Right now I’d be concerned about taking a vacation in Europe because I might wind up stuck there for a while. Easier to just wait for things to blow over.

    Also, a conference organizer is probably looking at being endlessly second-guessed if something does go wrong and someone gets sick. I’m sure there is a lot of “why tempt fate?” Going on. I’m not saying it’s right but it seems understandable.

  9. says

    A few more details are available here:

    The decision to cancel was based on the latest scientific data being reported, and the fact that a large number of attendees at this meeting are coming from outside the US, including countries where the CDC upgraded its warning to level 3 as recently as Saturday, February 29.

  10. wzrd1 says

    I’m planning some meeting travel for the end of June myself, and I could imagine cancelling if the epidemic got much worse, but I wouldn’t wait until the day before!

    Obviously, cancellation would be black heresy, for the God-King, Emperor Trump decreed the virus would become inactive in April.
    If any become ill before April, I’m sure that the God-King, Emperor Trump will happily throw rolls of paper towels at them. Any ill after April are heretics and are to be immured in molten gold and displayed at the Emperor Presidential Altar.

    @9, the cancellation is still idiotic, as those who were traveling to reach the event had already arrived and would now depart, farther spreading any potential infection farther than had the event been held and those displaying early symptoms quarantined.
    Of course, this is the US, so any quarantined in the hotel, who no longer could afford to stay there would be summarily evicted and quarantined on the streets…

    BTW, the current news from the God-King’s profits (not to be confused with prophets, who speak for free, rather than profitable fee) is, Democrats are responsible for COVID-19 and want it to eat every American’s babies or something.

  11. whheydt says

    The US having a “limited response capability” is clearly demonstrated. VP Pence has been put in charge of the US response.

  12. lawdyme says

    I hope all is well for you and yours.

    A question that is undoubtedly on many people’s minds: how would the world be different if Andrew Yang were in charge?

    If Andrew Yang had been president of China would we have a problem with coronavirus right now?

    If Andrew yang were in charge would inner city youth bre raping and beating their fellow man?

    If Andrew Yang for president would rural youth be drinking methanol laced moonshine and going blind / murdering innocents while high on PCP?

    If white children were to be given a thousand dollars a month (get that bag) would they still shoot up their schools?

    If UBI were implemented today, would women finally rise from oppression?

    I’ve never been more depressed in my life than when I realize Andrew Yang had dropped out of the election campaign. I hope a Democrat wins, but I refuse to vote myself now that Yang has dropped out.

    Pour one out for 2020. 2024 here we come, Andrew yang for president GET THAT BAG.

  13. hemidactylus says

    I have a contingently pessimistic outlook and am preparing calmly (so far) for a range of situations. Gonna wash the hell outta my hands at work. Got spray sanitizer and EtOH wipes for trips to store and gas station. That’s prevention. Guess masks aren’t helpful (or are they?). Messaging seems to be stop buying masks as that’s futile, but the supply is being impacted for people in front lines who need them (why then?). Perplexed. Ideally I’d want clear chem lab goggles and face mask in public. Buying more canned food in case of needing to shelter in place to either avoid the zombie apocalypse out there or to be quarantined in house (if that’s a thing). Worst casing I keep thinking of Rick Grimes’: “We’re all infected.” which isn’t yet panic mode, but acting “as if” trying to be aseptic as possible and wondering if that’s an inevitability down the road…plus asymptomatic incubation being an iceberg looming. My measures seem so much rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Our gov’t isn’t exactly inspiring confidence for me right now. Hell Romney or Jeb would be more on point regarding this developing situation. Instead we have this clown and his prayerful sidekick. Yipes!

  14. tccc says

    You should not buy masks, front line folks need them.

    They do not protect you unless you are literally face to face with sick folks and getting coughed and sneezed on, like front line health care workers.

    If you are sick, you should wear one.

    Evidence and science from 1918 suggest the sooner at scale social distancing measures were tried, the better those communities handled the epidemic.

    Here is what hospitals should be doing right now according to The Johns Hopkins:

    Also, anything that seems like it might be a good idea to consider in two weeks, we should start doing now. That is the advice of people who understand this outbreak.

    Follow or read these folks on twitter, the true Epidemiological superheros. Smart, honest science.

  15. tccc says

    What the actual scientists and experts say about what we would do now:

    “What does all of this mean? To me, at least, it suggest, that if there are public health interventions that we think may seem prudent in two or three weeks given our current trajectory, then we should be implementing those interventions today.” < follow this person too for covid19 sensible advice.

  16. says

    @12 lawdyme
    I don’t know if PZ bans commentors ever, but you really need to give it a rest. Spammed propaganda is not appreciated by the rest of us.

  17. dianne says

    My understanding is that the travel is not so much the issue as the large meeting. Putting a large number of people together in one place increases the chances for a respiratory infection to transmit to multiple people at once. So canceling the conference makes sense, travel restrictions do not. At least, not if your goal is to limit viral spread.

  18. dianne says

    When the SARS cluster hit Canada, the AACR noped itself out of its annual meeting (in, IIRC, Vancouver) because quite apart from the risk to participants, brining the virus back and going to work with immunosuppressed patients was a hard no. I don’t really expect this year’s to come off either.

  19. says

    You didn’t know that I’m notorious for banning commenters all the time? It’s true. Usually it takes a bit more than spamming once, though.

  20. says

    @20 PZ, Your territory, your rules. But that whole diatribe from lawdyme reads almost like unhinged Q-a-nonsense (hey, I invented a new word). This is the last I’m going to say about it honest.