Many people travel during the holidays but traveling this year will look different. Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19, the flu and other viruses. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, but if you decide you want to risk travel during the pandemic, there are ways to steps you can take to help protect your health while doing so.
Are There Risks To Travel During The Pandemic?
The CDC has released recent guidance on traveling during a pandemic. More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days. As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.
Experts are saying this is not the time to travel.
“If it is not essential travel, stay home. Unless it is important I would postpone travel during this pandemic,” said Kanayo Kenenna Odeluga, MD, MPH, occupational medicine doctor with Franciscan WorkingWell in Chicago Heights.
Travel increases your risks of getting and spreading COVID-19. The CDC recommends that travelers at increased risk for severe illness should consider postponing all travel, including essential travel, to high-risk destinations.
Before you travel, learn if COVID-19 is spreading in your local area or in any of the places you are traveling through. Traveling to visit family may be especially dangerous if you or your loved ones are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19. People at higher risk for severe illness need to take extra precautions.
What Steps Should You Take To Reduce Chance Of Getting Sick?
You should not travel if you are sick (from COVID-19 or any other illness) or have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
The CDC suggests these tips if you travel:
- Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet from anyone who is not from your household.
- Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Do not travel with someone who is sick.
- If you must eat out, choose safer food options: drive-through, delivery, take-out and curbside pick-up. Better yet, pack your food in a cooler while on the road.
- Make sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine.
- Follow state and local recommendations for quarantine before or after travel to a location. Some cities, including Chicago, and states, such as Ohio, do have a 14-day quarantine requirement if you are traveling from Indiana, for example.
When Should I Delay My Trip?
You don’t want to miss out on a planned trip, but there are situations when cancelling or postponing travel makes sense for you and those you care about. Delaying your trip when you have to potential to spread COVID-19 also protects other travelers, people who work in travel settings and those at your destination. The CDC has compiled common scenarios that may cause you to have to delay your travels.
- You are sick with a fever, cough or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Have recently tested positive for COVID-19.
- Have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
- You are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test.
What if I receive a negative COVID-19 test, but still feel sick?
Delay your travel until you’re well – other contagious diseases can spread through travel too. If you have a fever (feel feverish or have a temperature of 100.4oF [38oC] or higher), wait at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without using fever-reducing medications.
What happens if I receive a positive COVID-19 while at my travel destination?
According to the CDC, you will need to isolate yourself from others and delay your return. Your travel companions will need to self-quarantine and delay their travel back home until 14 days after their last exposure to you while you have COVID-19.
Can Flying On An Airplane Increase The Risk Of Getting COVID-19?
Any activity that brings you in close contact for 15 minutes or more with an infected person, even if he or she does not have symptoms, is thought to put you at significant risk for contracting COVID-19.
Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. The time spent in a crowded setting may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
After You Travel
If you do travel, there will be requirements once you return.
“If you have been to a very high-risk area where there is COVID-19, you will be required to quarantine for 10 days before being able to return to work,” said Dr. Odeluga.
You may have been exposed to COVID-19, even without knowing it, on your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can be contagious without symptoms and spread the virus to others. You and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus. Regardless of where you traveled or what you did during your trip, take the proper actions to protect others from getting sick after you return, including:
- Maintaining social distancing
- Wearing a mask
- Washing your hands often or use hand sanitizer when necessary
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist