Along with most of my family, I received my reminder last month. Neither the FDA nor the CDC had cleared it yet, but we had read reports from Israel and other countries and knew it wouldn’t hurt.
We had planned to take a cruise, which had often been rescheduled since the spring of 2020, departing from England, a hotbed of infection. The cruise line required every passenger and crew member to be fully vaccinated, but being the belt and shoulder strap type, we felt that an extra level of protection couldn’t hurt.
Frankly, the aftereffects were just a little more severe than the first ones. Mild headaches that lasted 36 hours instead of 24 and arm pain for two days instead of one. Nothing crippling, just a little discomfort, but it’s worth it, we thought.
Preparing for the trip was a much bigger problem. We had to fill out electronic forms for the cruise line, airline and UK government.
We photographed and downloaded official vaccination cards and had to answer very detailed questions not only about our health, but also about our vacation plans. Then we waited for hours for the promised ‘instant decision’ on whether or not we could enter Britain.
The cruise site finally approved us. The airline and government websites wanted more. We had to show proof of negative COVID tests performed no more than 48 hours before departure. It was easy to get tested, but it was scary to wait for the results.
Of course, we were sure they would be negative, but they were made the day before Hurricane Ida. When he struck, dozens of lab workers couldn’t get to work, so test results were late. At home, I encountered a leaking roof. In the suburbs, one of us had a flooded basement and another was stuck on the toll highway for seven hours. But our general concern was whether we would get the negative results in time to fly the next day.
We did, thank goodness, and it took an hour (at 2 a.m.) for the airline and government websites to accept them.
At the airport (JFK) there was a separate queue for people who had a pre-approved travel authorization, so the check-in process was relatively easy. On the seven-hour night flight, everyone remained masked. At least it reduced the snoring noises.
When we landed at Heathrow, we were taken by bus to another test site, where we had to line up, present the paperwork justifying our electronic entries and undergo further testing. Then we sat down waiting for the results before we were allowed to board the ship.
On board, everyone seemed masked everywhere except in the dining and living areas. We stayed with our own group and didn’t interact much with the other passengers. Ashore we saw everyone masked most of the time. People everywhere took health security very seriously.
Before we could return to the United States, we had to undergo another round of tests. This time, the cruise line arranged for a medical team to board and provide rapid tests to American passengers, about half of the ship. We got our 20 minute test results about six hours later, so again we were in the agony of waiting until the very last second to find out if we were allowed to go home.
We were, and it was another middle-of-the-night effort to upload all the evidence needed for the airline and the US government to fly the next day. Then on the plane, we had to fill out contact tracing forms from New York State.
Lots of paperwork, gigabytes of documents, but a safe and happy vacation.
An old assemblya of Jersey City, Joan Quigley is President and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corp.
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