Travel Safely During Summer Vacation Season

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine….

Many people have put vacation plans on hold over the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now as states relax stay-at-home restrictions and summer vacation season begins, some Americans are looking for safe ways to travel. A Baylor College of Medicine infectious disease expert offers a few tips on how to reduce your risk of getting sick if you’re hitting the road or catching a flight this summer.

Do your research before you go

Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor, said at this time there’s still risk involved in any kind of travel. She recommends everyone stay up to date on the number of COVID-19 cases and the travel restrictions locally and at their vacation destination.

“The risk will depend heavily on local viral transmission patterns and the population density of travelers visiting the area,” Weatherhead said. “In areas that are more remote where social distancing can be maintained and there are fewer interactions between visitors and local residents, the risk may be less. Understanding the risks to both yourself and to the vacation community needs to be heavily considered prior to travel.”

Consider your mode of travel carefully

Any form of transportation that puts you in close contact with a large number of strangers increases the risk of virus transmission. Planes, trains and buses can involve close exposure to people from different parts of the country. Most planes have high-efficiency filters that reduce the risk of the virus spreading through the air. But Weatherhead notes that when in confined spaces it’s difficult to prevent droplet and surface transmission if you’re in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

“Practice social distancing as much as possible, disinfect highly touched surfaces such as seats, trays and arm rests, and wear a facial covering to help reduce viral transmission,” Weatherhead said.

Driving can be a good way to decrease your contact with other people, but take caution when stopping for gas or food. You can reduce the number of stops you take by bringing food and water in the car with you. Weatherhead recommends planning your route ahead of time to scout out restaurants and gas stations that may be open and aren’t overpopulated with other travelers. Use drive-thru or curbside service when possible to reduce the frequency of going inside businesses. When you do get out of the car, be sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content to kill viruses.

“Even on road trips, it is important to continue to practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet distance from others and stopping at locations that aren’t crowded,” Weatherhead said. “Limit face-to-face interactions by using credit cards to pay and wear a face covering when in public spaces.”