Can Dogs Be Trained to Sniff Out COVID-19?

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Everyone is used to seeing security dogs in airports. These well-trained canines frantically looking for any instance of illegal drugs and narcotics carried by malicious passengers who think they’re above the law. 

But in an unexpected twist of events, it turns out that dogs are being deployed to sniff out COVID-19 in potentially infected passengers. At least in the Helsinki airport located in Finland, where 10 dogs will be trained to detect COVID-19. 

Here’s why: A university in the same city published a study which claims that dogs have the ability to track COVID-19 with a near 100% accuracy rate, which prompted this experimental trial. They are the first ones to even attempt this, and if they succeed, you can bet that every other airport in the world will be employing their own army of coronavirus-detecting dogs. 

However, dogs and passengers won’t directly interact with one another. 

After passengers submit a skin swab, the dog will be sniffing it out in a separate location. This is being done to protect the dog handlers from getting infected, while protecting the anonymity of the passengers. 

Many university professors have spoken out against these findings, observing that dogs are not actually detecting with COVID-19. What they’re actually detecting are higher concentrations of a molecule that is ASSOCIATED with the disease (and we currently don’t know what that molecule, or molecules, could be). 

You also have to remember that dogs are not robots. You can’t “standardize” dogs to uniformly act and detect COVID-19 at the same accuracy rate. It takes a LOT of time and money to train dogs to sniff out diseases, and the training has to be consistently maintained. It’s not scalable in the same way you can “scale” production of a COVID-19 antibody test. 

Long story short… it’s a great idea, but I’m holding my breath for this one. Until we see concrete results that can consistently be reproduced, this is nothing more than a pipe dream. 

What do YOU think about the idea of COVID-19 detecting dogs? Would you be OK with having a dog sniff you down for the coronavirus while at the airport? Reply to this newsletter and let me know if you would be (or not), and why!

60% of Travelers Would PAY for Mandatory COVID-19 Protection

How much would you be willing to pay for COVID-19 protection? Testing, screening, isolation accommodations, access to quarantine facilities, and remediation if you get infected with the coronavirus? 

According to a survey from Global Rescue, 60% of travelers would pay $50-100 for mandatory testing and screening services alone. 

There were some other interesting statistics to emerge from the survey:

  • 88% want governments to create systematic programs for minimizing the spread of COVID-19
  • 91% want all travelers to obtain the same COVID-19 protections as they do, both for their own safety and the safety of other travelers
  • 68% of travelers want to wait until lockdowns are completely over before they feel safe with international travel (and 46% for domestic travel)
  • 50% of patients will travel internationally once a COVID-19 vaccine is available (41% for domestic travel)

The message is clear, according to Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards, “Travelers are eager to fight back with an overwhelming willingness for comprehensive, mandatory COVID-19 protections for themselves and all travelers. And they are willing to pay for it.”

But I’m curious to know: Would YOU be willing to pay for COVID-19 protection, and if so, what is your dollar amount? Reply to this newsletter with your exact figure!

An Unexpected Airline Charge You Would NEVER See Coming…

This news story was published two weeks ago, but it barely got any traction from the press. It was interesting enough and I thought it would be worth sharing to our audience as a friendly warning to avoid incurring unwanted charges while flying. 

A travel writer was flying with a Hungarian operator called Wizz Air, which is one of the lower-cost European airlines. He used ad-blocking software while using the WiFi provided on the plane… and left with a €10 “System Surcharge Fee.” 

According to the airline, this was supposedly a rare bug. There is no policy on their terms and conditions where using an ad blocker is explicitly forbidden. However, they recommended that you don’t use ad blockers, as doing so requires “additional hosting efforts.

(For those of you who aren’t in the loop, the ad blocker could possibly stop the fraud-detection software used by the airline from working properly.)

Lesson of the story: When you fly with a budget airline, be aware of additional and surprising fees to pop up while you are booking your trip. This is supposedly how these types of airlines are able to make a profit… reel you in with a seemingly low cost, and then gradually tack on fees until you end up paying a final price similar to a normal-cost airline. 

Is Corporate Travel Finally Making a Comeback?

It’s going to be a while before corporate travel becomes a regular part of business culture, but some early data indicates a slow yet steady approach towards recovery. 

According to FCM Travel Solutions’ recently published “State of the Market” survey, the numbers look rather promising:

  • 90% of businesses plan to travel domestically within 3 months of governments lifting travel restrictions (ex. quarantine)
  • 26% of businesses will resume pre-coronavirus levels of domestic travel no earlier than 2021, with 74% planning to reduce domestic travel
  • 50% of businesses have plans to travel in the near future, or already have employees traveling for business purposes
  • Industries most likely to have resumed business travel to date include mining, wholesale, construction, food services, and client management

Factors influencing investments into corporate travel will include the availability of flexible fares, a lack of overnight requirements, a shorter time period for purchasing flights (3-4 days), and the use of virtual meetings as a backup option should travel become an unviable option. 

It will be a few years before the corporate travel lifestyle becomes fun and enjoyable. For now, expect it to be a complete and total drag. 

Hotels Might Need Some of Those Billion-Dollar Government Bailouts Too

Not everyone in the travel industry will receive a helping hand from the federal government of the United States. Airlines were obviously going to receive it, while cruise lines were left on the curbside (not surprising when you consider their predatory tax-evasion tactics). 

But what about hotels? Are they deserving of a bailout, and if they are, will they receive it? 

Regardless of what you think about hotels, they obviously NEED some financial assistance. A new survey from the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that 75% of hotels will have to conduct another brutal round of layoffs unless Congress pitches in with some cash. 

The same survey also revealed some other horrifying realities of the hotel industry in America:

  • 50% of hotel owners are very close to a foreclosure
  • Over 66% of hotels will last no longer than six more months at their current occupancy levels and revenue
  • 68% of hotels have only 50% of their staff working full-time.
  • 40% of hotel workers are currently unemployed

This is much bigger than hotels, however – If a new relief deal isn’t closed by the end of this month, a double-digit recession looks like a real possibility for the American economy according to Goldman Sachs. I don’t know how much money hotels in the USA will receive, but they’ll need something. That much I can tell you…

Google Maps’ New “COVID-19 Outbreak” Could Disrupt the Pandemic-Tracking Tech Industry

There are a lot of online tools you can use, both free and paid, to track the real-time status of COVID-19 outbreaks and ever-changing rules in various cities, states, and countries. 

But Google Maps, already dominating the space for having the best interactive global map in existence, wants to leverage its power in showing you exactly where COVID-19 is spreading in real-time. 

Set to be released later this week, you can use the app to see the status of COVID-19 outbreaks in your area of residence. They will be servicing over 220 territories and countries. 

Google Maps will be sourcing data from Wikipedia, The New York Times, and John Hopkins University to provide you details in the form of a seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people. Different colors will be used to show the severity of the outbreak you are looking at. 

I don’t know how many of you use Google Maps on your desktop or phone, but this would be a useful tactic for seeing how COVID-19 is being handled in whatever travel destination you want to go to. I’ll definitely be giving this new feature a spin when it gets released, and I suggest you do the same. 

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