As Thanksgiving approaches, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic makes travel risky. In fact, the holiday guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of Nov. 19 recommends people postpone any travel plans, stating, “staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.” If you must travel, though, here are some Thanksgiving travel tips during the coronavirus pandemic to help you mitigate the risks.
According to the CDC’s holiday recommendations as of Nov. 19, traveling outside of your community increases the chance of contracting or spreading COVID-19, and with the number of coronavirus cases are rising in all 50 states as of Nov. 17, it’s probably best to reconsider any non-essential travel. Keri Althoff, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, spoke about travel risks during a Nov. 12 Bloomberg School of Public Health webinar, and Althoff reinforced the current CDC recommendation, saying, “Holiday travel should be carefully considered. Staying at home is the lowest risk.” If you can’t stay home, there’s no guarantee you won’t come in contact with the virus, but there are steps you can take to potentially lower the risk. If you have to travel by plane, train, bus, or car, you should follow these expert tips on your trip.
1. Get a COVID-19 test and have a quarantine plan.
No matter which area you’re traveling to, Rachael Piltch-Loeb, Ph.D., preparedness fellow at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tells Elite Daily it’s best to test negative for COVID-19 before traveling. Piltch-Loeb also advises paying attention to the coronavirus situation where you live and where you’re traveling to. "If you travel to a place of higher COVID-19 transmission, or if you are traveling in general, check in on the requirements where you live for quarantine or testing after returning," says Piltch-Loeb.
"Most people show symptoms of the virus within five days," says Piltch-Loeb. With that, the suggestion is for people to self-isolate for at least five days right before an upcoming trip. To give yourself time to get results, you should get tested on the third day of that self-imposed quarantine. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should contact your doctor and quarantine.
If you test negative and then travel, Piltch-Loeb says you should isolate again upon arrival (according the local guidelines of wherever you travel to), and then get tested a few days into that quarantine. Piltch-Loeb warns you should ‘[test negative] before interacting with others.”
Althoff warns you should “not travel if you feel unwell, if you are awaiting COVID-19 test results, or if you’re in quarantine after close contact with someone who has had COVID-19.”
2. Be prepared while traveling.
Again, staying home is the best way to stay safe, but when it comes to travel, there are riskier modes of transportation than others. According to Piltch-Loeb traveling by car is the preferred mode, but if you need to take public transportation, like local transit, a train, a bus, or a plane, you should wear a mask, wash or sanitize your hands frequently, sanitize your seat, and keep contact with others limited. "[Try to do] things like [bring] your own snacks so you don’t need to purchase things in transit, [sit] in a window seat so you come in contact with fewer people going down the aisle of a plane or train," says Piltch-Loeb.
Althoff says you should make sure you’re taking precautions at all times. "When you are in line to check in, [go] through security, or board the plane, wear your mask, sanitize or wash your hands frequently, [and] be ready to accept abrupt changes to your travel plans," she says. "Be sure to practice your statement of how you will encourage more distance between yourself and a stranger," she adds.
3. Don’t travel during peak times.
Piltch-Loeb also notes it’s important to avoid traveling during the busiest times of day. "If you can travel at off-peak times, that [is] better. The big goal in traveling is to limit the number of people you come in contact with," says Piltch-Loeb.
To avoid traveling when it’s crowded, consider alternative dates. Christie Hudson, Senior PR Manager for Expedia, previously told Elite Daily as of Nov. 17 that flight demand points to the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, Nov. 25, as the busiest travel day leading up to the holiday. The second busiest day is the Friday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 20. Per Hudson, you’ll also want to consider your returning flight date, because the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29, is likely to be the busiest day to hop on a plane post-holiday.
If you’re taking a road trip or visiting local establishments on your trip, it’s best to do that during the least busy times of day. Google Maps’ Nov. 17 blog post — with data on peak times for shopping and errands from March to October 2020 — is a helpful place to start. For example, if you’re making any grocery store, coffee shop, or restaurant stops before or after your trip, you should avoid Friday and Saturday mornings and afternoons, which Google says are the busiest times, and plan for a weekday visit, usually in the morning or early afternoon.
4. Weigh the risk factors.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, M.D., FIDSA, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, also spoke during the Nov. 12 Bloomberg School of Public Health webinar and made it clear precautions don’t take away all risk. "In this pandemic, with community spread going the way it is, no activity is going to be without risk. You cannot get the risk down to zero, but you can take some common sense precautions that will minimize that risk," says Adalja.
Adalja points to different quarantine travel guidelines across the country, and how that can make it difficult to properly adhere to them, saying, "When you’re traveling to states where there’s high prevalence [of COVID-19], it’s always going to be a risky and a logistical nightmare to make sure you’re in compliance on both sides of the border.”
With so many risk factors at play, Dr. Michelle Barron, M.D., senior medical director for infection prevention and control at UCHealth, tells Elite Daily it might be best to postpone or cancel traditional holiday plans, including travel. "I think this might be the year you get creative, and you do your party via Zoom … or FaceTime," she explains. "[There are] different ways to do this without putting somebody at risk."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Elite Daily’s coverage of coronavirus here.
Keri Althoff, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Rachael Piltch-Loeb, Ph.D., preparedness fellow at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Dr. Amesh Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health
Dr. Michelle Barron, M.D., Senior medical director for infection prevention and control at UCHealth
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