CDC advises against travel during holiday season
Home is where the heart is but a household is somewhere you have lived for 14 days, and if you plan on traveling home or inviting others into your household this holiday season, it is important to understand the risks and take precautions to mitigate those risks.
During a telebriefing on December 2, Dr. Henry Walke, the incident manager of the CDC’s COVID-19 response announced that the CDC is recommending against travel during the holiday season, mirroring it’s advice for Thanksgiving. In an interview with CBS12 News, Palm Beach County Health Department Director Dr. Alina Alonso encouraged individuals to keep family gatherings and travel to a minimum this holiday season.
Although Florida has no restrictions for the incoming crowd, many states require a quarantine or negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival. Additionally, some colleges have implemented a variety of regulations or recommendations such as requesting or requiring students get tested, or asking that if they choose to leave for the holidays they complete the semester online and do not return to campus.
Both Southwest and United Airlines have experience an increase in cancellations and a decrease in bookings with the number of people flying 65% of what it was last year. Although it is too early to tell if travel over the Thanksgiving holiday led to an increase in COVID-19 cases due to the incubation period, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warns that we could see an increase in cases as we move towards Christmas.
If you will or are considering traveling this holiday season the first step of making sure that is done safely is by asking yourself some preliminary questions. A comprehensive list of those questions can be found here. You want to weigh the risk of traveling not only for yourself but for those you are going to visit as well as those you may encounter on your way there.
Are you or someone you are visiting at an increased risk of catching COVID-19? “For people with health conditions that could make COVID-19 fatal or manifest into something really terrible…they should really think twice about if they need to travel,” says Roshini Singh, a nurse practitioner at PBC Boca. You can find a list of what makes someone at an increased risk on the CDC website.
Are coronavirus cases increasing either at your destination or in your local area? You can view a thorough report of up-to-date COVID-19 cases here for the state of Florida, breaking it down to as small an area as a zip code, and if you want to search across the country you can look here. Have both parties been isolating for 14 days before gathering together? And will you be able to socially distance while you travel? If you are planning on flying you can find COVID-19 precautions being taken by a variety of major airlines on the FAA website.
There are also precautions you should take as an individual while traveling. Follow CDC guidelines, have a plan, and know when to delay travel. The CDC has a comprehensive website answering questions that may come up. Singh says that doing what you can to make yourself as healthy as possible is always a good thing. “Boost your immune system before you travel, just boost your immune system in general” she recommends along with eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water. She also points out that you can always ask your healthcare provider about taking vitamins.
If you decide that traveling is right for you, and after you have taken proper precautions en route and arrived at your destination (or your guests have arrived at your household) it is important to recognize that there is still some risk involved and there are simple actions that can be taken while celebrating together to minimize the chance of COVID-19 spreading between you and the other party.
While these recommendations seem basic, they can quite literally save a life. Make sure you continue to wash your hands, keep hand-sanitizer on your person, wear a mask, and socially distance especially when coming into contact with an individual you are not staying with or someone who may be at an increased risk.
When it comes to hosting or attending a holiday gathering, consider eating outside or if you choose to eat inside open windows and use a fan if possible. Limit the number of guests, make sure to disinfect commonly touched surfaces before and between use, and limit the number of individuals involved in food preparation or ask people to bring their own food. If you are sharing food, have only one person serve and use single-use utensils. You should also discuss proper COVID-19 precautions with guests before the event.
As Singh points out, “nothing is 100%”, but if you follow CDC guidelines and recommendations from your health provider you can decrease your chances of contracting COVID-19 during this holiday season.