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Ten holiday travelling tips to keep you safe from COVID-19

By James LaCorte | November 4, 2020 | Healthy Lifestyle, Coronavirus

Travelers wearing masks in airport

I’m tired of COVID-19! If I hear one more person use the term “new normal,” I’m going to cry. I can’t accept this is our “new normal,” and I’m ready for things to go back to the “real normal.”

But for now, COVID-19 has other plans. If you’d told me in February that come the end of the year, we’d be making our holiday plans around COVID-19, I would’ve thought you were crazy. But here we are.

During the holidays many of us travel to visit family and friends. In 2019 55 million Americans travelled during Thanksgiving, and at Christmas, 115 million Americans travelled. That is a lot of us travelling!

Recently the CDC shared that travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19. You can spread COVID-19 to others for 14 days after you are exposed to the virus. And studies are showing that even those without symptoms can have longer-term health complications from COVID-19.

My family has decided to stay home for the holidays. While that is the right choice for our situation, yours may be different. Whatever you decide, stay safe and I hope these tips help you during your travels.

For North Carolina residents

As of November 13, North Carolina remains in Phase 3 of COVID-19 precautions. Phase 3 limits indoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer in order to slow the spread of the virus.

If you are considering traveling this holiday season, here are ten things to consider.

1. Check the number of cases for the last seven days in the state you want to travel to and determine if you are comfortable with the trend.

Check both the state and the local/county of your destination, as well as the cities you may need to travel through to get there.

Avoid being in an area that is experiencing high levels of COVID-19, including destinations with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. You can check the Travel Health Notices for recommendations for places you have traveled, including foreign countries and U.S. territories. You can also check states, counties, and cities to determine if these areas are experiencing high levels of COVID-19.

2. Consider whether friends and family members at your destination have been at high-risk gatherings recently.

The following situations are high risk:

  • Going to a large social gathering like a wedding, funeral, worship or party
  • Attending a mass gathering like a sporting event, concert, or parade
  • Being in crowds — for example, in restaurants, bars, airports, bus and train stations, or movie theaters
  • Traveling on a cruise ship or river boat

3. Get on the same page as your family/friends about COVID precautions and expectations.

We may have a lower or higher risk tolerance than the people we are visiting. That means everyone might not be following the same guidelines.

Licensed clinical social worker Kim Eisenberg encourages people to talk explicitly with their families before getting together. This way, she says, you can come to a consensus around shared expectations of behavior.

While you might not agree about everything 100%, it’s important to come to an agreement that everyone can live with. She stresses having empathy for your loved ones with different perspectives and trying to understand the values that drive them.

4. If you or someone close to you feels sick, do not travel.

Follow the CDC’s guidelines on when to delay travel to avoid spreading COVID-19. Keep in mind that even if you don’t feel sick, you could still have COVID-19 and could spread the virus to others. If you think you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, do not travel.

5. If you have a medical condition, consider the risks carefully and avoid non-essential travel.

Know if you are at increased risk of severe illness. Even if you’re careful, traveling or attending group gatherings can put you at risk. Think about how many people you will interact with, how much space you can put between you, and how long you will be in close contact with others.

6. Understand if your destination has any restrictions, mandates or guidelines you should follow.

According to the CDC, “State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival. Follow state, local, and territorial travel restrictions. For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check the state, territorial, tribal and local health department where you are, along your route, and where you are going. Prepare to be flexible during your trip as restrictions and policies may change during your travel.”

7. Ensure the people you are visiting are healthy and do not have certain medical conditions that can put them at risk.

Remember that the lowest risk activities are virtual-only events and gatherings. Try to find creative ways to connect with your loved ones virtually.

If you are planning to visit at-risk family members in person, encourage social distancing during your visit and spending time outdoors. Try to arrange your space to allow for social distancing (for example, keep windows open when possible), but understand that this is not a low risk gathering.

8. Practice the 3Ws = Wear a mask, wait six feet apart and wash your hands often.

If you do travel, practice the 3Ws. One risk of traveling by plane is being near others in the airport or on public transportation. If you’re traveling by car, stops along the way can put you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.

Practicing the 3Ws can help reduce your risk. Bring hand sanitizer and disposable gloves, and avoid touching your face. You can wear a face shield in addition to a mask while traveling for extra protection.

9. Get your flu shot and take care of your overall health.

Talk to your doctor about whether your vaccinations and preventive services are up to date. The CDC says it’s particularly important for those at increased risk of severe illness to get their flu shot and take care of their health.

10. Download the Slow COVID App to track if you get exposed during your travels.

The app will alert you if you’ve come into contact with someone who reported a positive COVID-19 case to the app. It can help you protect yourself, your family, and your community.