Good morning, travelers. The swine flu outbreak may reach pandemic status but the fears seem to be abating. In this morning's Globe, this is what health reporter Stephen Smith reported:
Swine flu, in a matter of days, had hopscotched the globe, racing in the era of jet travel from Mexico, through the United States, Europe, and all the way to China. But the virus has resulted in only a single death outside the outbreak's epicenter. Instead, the strain known as H1N1 has spawned symptoms akin to the seasonal flu that strikes each winter. That was evident in new findings released last night by Governor Deval Patrick and his top health administrators at a State House press briefing. They reported that the state now has 34 confirmed cases of the disease, up from six at the end of last week. People across the state have been stricken, but only three fell so ill that they needed to be hospitalized, and all have recovered. "This is a cause for concern, but not for panic," Patrick said. "Flu always spreads." But, the governor quickly added, an ordinary flu season generates many more cases than the number of H1N1 illnesses reported so far. And so, less than two weeks after disease detectives first identified the new virus, officials from Boston to Atlanta to Geneva began to ever so subtly modify their message about swine flu: Yes, it's something that needs to be watched closely. But the worst - at least right now - might not happen.
In Mexico City, the AP is reporting that things are starting to return to normal:
Mexico declared a return to "normalcy" yesterday, preparing to reopen businesses and schools even as the swine flu virus sickened more than 1,200 people in 20 countries. World health officials said the global epidemic is still in its early stages, and that a pandemic could be declared in the days to come. But Mexico's president said it was waning at its epicenter, justifying tomorrow's end to a five-day nationwide shutdown he credits for reducing the spread of the new virus. Already, streets in the capital seemed more lively, with more vehicles, and fewer people wearing face masks. Some cafes even reopened ahead of time. President Felipe Calderón said universities and high schools will reopen on Thursday, and younger schoolchildren should report back to school on May 11.
But many countries, like Japan, plan to maintain vigilance, according to the AP:
As long as the threat of a flu pandemic persists, anyone who flies into Japan from North America while experiencing any flu-like symptoms or ailments will not be allowed to walk off an airplane and infect people. Last week, inspectors began boarding every flight from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. They take the temperature of about 6,000 passengers a day. Near Tokyo's Narita airport, 500 rooms have been secured by the Health Ministry to quarantine infected passengers.
In local, travel-related news, business reporter Casey Ross is reporting that the Massachusetts Port Authority has told developer Don Chiofaro that two towers he's planning near the New England Aquarium are too tall and would encroach on Logan's airspace:
Chiofaro has proposed a 40-story office tower and a 59-story residential tower linked by a 770-foot tall "skyframe" that would create a rectangular arch that itself would be taller than the two towers.
The authority said the project exceeds its height guidelines for the waterfront by at least 145 feet and could interfere with airplane maneuvers during emergencies. The property, located about two miles from Logan, and now the site of the Boston Harbor garage, is under the path of airplanes using Runway 27, Massport said.
The authority notified Chiofaro that its guidelines would limit the height of his development to 625 feet.
The Federal Aviation Administration has the final decision, but Massport's guidelines are used as reference point in the federal review.