Newswise — As millions of people pack airports and planes over spring break at a time when only 25 percent of the population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, Lewis Nelson, director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, says public health measures while traveling like social distancing, washing hands and mask wearing are still critical to remaining healthy and stopping the spread.
Why is travel still unwise even if you are vaccinated?
The primary concerns with travel right now are the social reasons and the rise of COVID-19 variants. Visiting family in a quiet environment is low risk. On the other hand, traveling to a place where there will be singing and shouting, close contact in large groups and consuming drugs or alcohol all raise the risk of transmitting or contracting COVID-19.
Exposure to variant viruses, which may not respond to vaccines as well, and bringing them back home on your return raises the risk of spread to new regions. Since you cannot know if you have been exposed to the predominant strain or to a variant, limiting the exposure risk is a key strategy to preventing spread. The vaccines are very good but not perfect. We do not know about the effectiveness of vaccines on the variant viruses.
If you must travel, how should you protect yourself?
Although it is inevitable that people will travel, traveling safely is critical. You should wear a mask in public and around high-risk people, which will protect others from you in case you harbor the virus in your throat, and you from others.
It is essential to avoid crowds, even outdoors but particularly indoors, and particularly if mask-wearing is not being practiced in earnest. Washing your hands or using a hand sanitizer will help reduce the spread. You should not travel or socialize if you are sick, whether with COVID-like illness or another illness. Be aware of your surroundings and socially distance yourself from anyone who is sick or coughing.
What should travelers do when they return home?
You should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendations.