TravelPulse interviewed Dr. Kristina Angelo who works at the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch. The interview aims to provide travelers with recommendations to keep in mind when traveling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
TravelPulse: Are there certain types of travel that are safer than others?
Dr. Kristina Angelo: We don’t really differentiate between the types of travel, but we do create a series of questions on our website that march people through the process of if a trip should be embarked upon.
The first question is ‘Is COVID-19 spreading where you are going?’ Obviously the more cases at your destination the more you are likely to get infected and spread it to others. ‘Do you live with or are traveling with someone who is in those high-risk groups?’ Obviously you don’t want that vulnerable person to be placed in an unfortunate situation or are you in a high-risk group.
We have seen a lot of states that have requirements and restrictions now for people coming in and mask requirements and some states are requiring quarantines, so we recommend checking.
TP: When you do go and travel, what are the best ways to protect yourselves?
KA: Wear a mask, keep your nose and mouth covered in a public setting, avoid close contact and stay six feet apart, which I measure with two arm lengths.
It’s important to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, stay away from people who could be ill, and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
TP: How far off are we from rapid testing and do you see that as something that would help? Do you think that would alleviate some of the stress and would people be able to travel more?
KA: There are new tests in the pipeline but it is hard for me to say how that would impact travel because we don’t know currently how sensitive the tests would be, meaning how good is it at detecting infection.
We would make our recommendations once the test was available and we have that sensitivity information.
TP: What are the safety precautions travelers should take at a hotel or a vacation rental?
KA: When you go into a property, make sure that you are actually sanitizing the surfaces yourself.
You should also make sure that you know the local regulations. For example, do you have to wear a mask when you leave the room?
Be as contactless as possible. Some hotels offer mobile room keys, contactless payment etcetera. Many hotels have removed a lot of the frequently touched surfaces in the event your hotel has not, make sure you aren’t using them or are sanitizing them.
TP: What about resort amenities? Are pools and hot tubs safe? What about a buffet or an outdoor massage?
KA: I would avoid any situation where you would come into contact with other people or people could congregate.
With regard to pools, the CDC does have specific guidelines. In general, the issue is the congregate accumulation of people so you basically want to make sure that you are maintaining your distance. Make sure you are spending as much time as possible outside. If, for example, you attend a wedding and the reception is inside, perhaps remove yourself from that situation.
TP: How safe is air travel?
KA: A lot of airlines have very diverse policies. There are some that are filling middle seats and some that are not. We recommend checking those policies before getting on an airplane.
TP: Are short-haul flights safer than long-haul?
KA: Given the inherent risk of air travel, the less time people spend in an enclosed space is obviously better than a longer period of time.
TP: What would be the recommended amount of PPE for a plane trip?
KA: We recommend that everyone wear a mask. That does not need to be an N95 mask, which is the kind that filters 95 percent of all particles, it just needs to be a mask that prevents secretions.
We recommend bringing wipes on an airplane and make sure that you wipe down all your immediate surfaces and bring hand sanitizer.
Keeping distance from others is also important and that includes getting on the plane and maintaining six feet of social distance.
TP: How safe would a day tour be?
KA: One thing I would caution against in that circumstance is that you have a guide or someone transiting with you so there still is the possibility of coming into contact with people not in your group so all of those things that I mentioned previously would still hold about mask use, hand sanitizer, making sure your surfaces are clean. So it’s really about coming into contact with other people.
It would obviously be less in this situation but it’s difficult to completely avoid it. There are a lot of situations where you think that you are isolated, but you are not.
TP: Is there a safe road trip?
KA: You aren’t in a bubble and you aren’t completely isolated. Even in an RV, there is always the possibility of coming into contact with other people and having to deal with the repercussions of that.