Summer Travel in COVID-19 Times

Travel is safer than ever thanks to increasing numbers of Americans being vaccinated against COVID-19, and falling infection rates across the country.

If you are fully vaccinated, there is no risk of you traveling if you have all your vaccines. While you still need to be cautious, it is much easier than in the past,” states Aaron E. Glatt MD, chair of the Mount Sinai South Nassau department of medicine in Oceanside, New York.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently updated their guidance. It stated that anyone who has been fully vaccinated (that’s, someone who received either the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccines at least two weeks before) can travel to the United States.

If you are not fully immunized, or are traveling with others who aren’t, such as children younger than 12, who are ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, then the same precautions apply as last summer.

These 10 tips will ensure everyone stays healthy while on vacation and that no one takes home unwanted souvenirs.

1. Find out the COVID-19 rate where you live

It doesn’t matter if you have been vaccinated. However, it is important to evaluate COVID-19 levels within your community. You are more likely to get COVID-19 if your levels are high. However, these so-called breakthrough infections can be rare and usually mild.

“Vaccination is an excellent way to protect people. However, it is not perfect. We do see some cases of breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals. These infections are usually less severe than expected,” Richard Martinello MD, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine and associate Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven.

According to Dr. Glatt of the Infectious Diseases Association of America, there are higher chances that you will travel by train, bus, or plane from a location where COVID-19 is common.

This is especially concerning if your travel party has not been vaccinated.

2. Assess COVID-19 Rates at Your Destination

It is important to take into account the infection rate at your destination. You should also consider the possibility of getting ill if you travel to a place that is high in COVID-19.

On the website of your local public health department, you can search for an area’s test positive rate. This is a key indicator of virus circulation levels. You can also search the extensive website Global Epidemics at Brown School of Public Health for the color-coded level of risk.

To determine the virus rate and entry restrictions for trips to the United States from outside the United States, visit the U.S. State Department website. These may differ depending on your vaccination status. The European Union recently approved that vaccinated Americans can travel to Europe this summer. This lifts restrictions on non-essential travel from the United States, which have been in effect for more than a year.

3. Take into account your (and your host’s) vaccination status and health situation

It is important to consider how risky you would travel. COVID-19 requires that everything be customized. Glatt states that you need to see everything from your own perspective.

Are you at risk of severe COVID-19 complications if you are not vaccinated? What about your travel companions or visitors? They might have compromised immune systems and are still susceptible to COVID-19, even if they’re vaccinated.

Glatt warns that flying in a plane to these places or traveling with other vacationers can be dangerous. Driving to a remote vacation spot might be okay.

4. Consider testing around your trip

You may consider taking a COVID-19 test if you or your travel companions have not been vaccinated. A negative result can reduce your chances of bringing the virus to your destination.

Even if you have been vaccinated, some international destinations may require you to undergo testing before you are allowed to visit. As an example, Americans cannot enter Croatia unless they have tested negative for COVID-19 within three calendar days of arriving.

Everyone must pass a negative screening when they return to the United States from international travel.

5. Choose your mode of travel

Experts consider driving the most safest mode of transport for anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated. This is especially true if the destination is within a few days. It also limits interaction with others.

Flying is also relatively safe. All passengers are required to wear masks while flying. You must wear your mask if you are not vaccinated.

Unvaccinated passengers traveling by bus may need to be extra vigilant as the ventilation systems, which are an important way microbes are removed in the air, may not work as well as on planes.

People who have been vaccinated should feel comfortable using any form of transportation. If you have been immunized, it is possible to sit next to someone unvaccinated.

6. Don’t Obsess, But Do Clean Your Hotel Room

Tara Kirk Sell, PhD is a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Baltimore. She says that you can travel as normal if your vaccines have been received. You can choose to stay in regular hotels if you wish, as opposed to limiting yourself to rental properties like many did last year.

Dr. Sell states that it is important to maintain safety habits such as using antibacterial wipes for disinfecting hotel room light switches, doorknobs and the TV remote. However, you don’t need to be obsessive about cleaning every item. Although the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low, it’s possible to protect yourself from other germs and viruses by doing basic cleaning.

You should take extra precautions if someone is in your room and they aren’t vaccinated. Sell suggests opening windows to improve ventilation. Because tiny viruses called aerosols can linger in the air, they could transmit COVID-19. This is particularly important when you arrive for the first time or after housekeeping has been in your bedroom to provide service.

7. It’s likely to be fine to eat in restaurants

Experts said it was unsafe to eat in a restaurant last summer. They suggested that tourists eat outside or order takeout. For those who haven’t been immunized, this advice is still valid.

Those who have had their vaccinations should be able to eat indoors without masking, according the CDC (assuming it’s permitted by the local government). This will make your vacation easier and more enjoyable.

However, experts recommend caution if COVID-19 is high in the area you are traveling.

“Personally I still avoid indoor restaurant dining, even though I have been vaccinated. COVID is still very prevalent in my area. Dr. Martinello states that indoor restaurants will be safe if COVID levels are consistently low to zero for a few more weeks.

8. Make smart choices about your activities

As more people are protected against the virus, the rates of COVID-19 will continue to fall in the United States. However, this is not true in other countries, particularly India where vaccine rates are low and new, potentially more contagious strains of the virus are constantly emerging.

You may find activities that you love doing on your international vacations, but it might be best to avoid them. There may be some COVID-19 risks associated with bars, karaoke, indoor rides and other crowded indoor activities.

Glatt recommends that you avoid indoor areas with large numbers of people, even if you live in the United States. He says, “Having been vaccinated will lower your chances of developing serious illness or complications. But, there is still a small, very small chance.”

9. Keep vigilant if you are not fully vaccinated

It’s easy for vacationers to forget about the restrictions of their regular lives. There are no magic protections against the virus if you don’t have the full vaccine.

Grant emphasizes that those at high risk should follow the CDC guidelines at all times. This includes washing their hands frequently, maintaining six feet (or more) of space between you and others, avoiding indoor spaces with poor ventilation and wearing a mask in public places.

10. Have Fun! It’s Your Right

We all need to take a vacation because of the stress caused by this year’s pandemic. Most of us haven’t been on a vacation in a while.

It may take some time to relax while you are away. It’s OK.

If you have been vaccinated, feel free to travel.

Susan Sontag said, “I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my bucket list.” After staying home for more than a year, it’s finally time to go — while still being smart and cautious.

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