COVID-19 Travel, Part 2: How to Travel Safely

After many months of quarantine, some states and countries are reopening travel. Your patients may be anxious to get out of the house and take a summer vacation. If they do travel, make sure they know the risks and keep themselves safe wherever they go.

Should you travel during COVID-19?

Last week, we covered the new Massachusetts travel order, which outlines the precautions that anyone entering Massachusetts must take, including quarantining and getting tested for COVID-19. However, traveling outside one’s community is still a risky activity. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintain that the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones from getting sick is to stay home and do no travel at all. If your patients still want to travel, there are some things they should consider before they make plans:

  • Does their destination have a high COVID-19 risk? As discussed in last week’s post, certain states are currently considered lower-risk for COVID-19. Your patients should look into the COVID-19 risk for their destination and chose a different one if the risk is high.
  • Does their community have a high COVID-19 risk? Even if they don’t have symptoms, they could potentially spread COVID-19 to others without realizing it.
  • What attractions do they plan to visit? Campgrounds can be good vacation spots (check out our blog post on avoiding mosquitoes while camping), if your patients can practice social distancing, but theme parks and crowded beaches are much higher-risk locations and should be avoided.
  • Will they be within 6 feet of others during their trip? The answer is likely yes. Being within 6 feet of others increases the chances of getting and spreading COVID-19.
  • Will they be traveling with people who have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19? People who are elderly, immunocompromised, or have other pre-existing health conditions are more likely to become severely ill if they get COVID-19, which could result in hospitalization or even death. If your patients want to travel, their higher-risk loved ones should stay home.
  • Do they live with people who have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19? Even if your patients’ higher-risk loved ones don’t come along on the trip, your patients could still potentially bring COVID-19 to them when they return.

The CDC also advises that if your patients are sick with COVID-19 or have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, they should not travel at all.

How to travel safely during COVID-19

Even though traveling presents a COVID-19 risk, there are things that your patients can do to reduce that risk. Before they leave, they should check on the travel restrictions for the area they plan to visit. Massachusetts isn’t the only state that requires a 14 day quarantine, and your patients should be prepared for any number of restrictions, as updates can happen at any time. If they plan to stay in a hotel, they should call ahead and ask what precautions the hotel is taking to prevent COVID-19. They may want to clean and disinfect their travel lodgings, and should pack the right supplies to do so. They should pack alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and cloth face coverings to wear in public places. They should also pack their own food, as this will prevent them from having to go into stores to buy it or interact with a delivery person.

Your patients should also consider how they’re traveling, not just where or what they’re bringing. It’s not yet known if any one form of travel is safer than the others, so your patients should exercise caution no matter how they get to their destination. Air and bus travel often puts one within 6 feet of other travelers, while car and RV travel necessitates making stops at gas stations or rest stops, putting one in close contact with surfaces and other people. The CDC offers guides for staying safe during all kinds of travel that your patient can consult.

While your patients are at their destination, they should follow the same precautions they take at home. That includes wearing face coverings in public places, cleaning their hands frequently by washing or sanitizing, and covering coughs and sneezes. They should continue practicing social distancing when possible and avoid touching their face.

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