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Deciding whether to travel in the pandemic

July 29, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. –  As we head into August, many of us are eager to squeeze in a trip before summer is gone.

“With COVID-19 still spreading throughout the country, travel generally isn’t recommended because it increases the chances of us catching and spreading the virus,” said Catherine Kroll, the director of infection prevention at PeaceHealth.

“The safest option is to continue to be patient and stay at home,” said Kroll, an avid traveler herself who has postponed personal plans until the overall outlook improves.

At the same time, she and other experts recognize that there may be compelling reasons to travel. In that case, assess your risk by asking the following questions:

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in your community?
  • Is there a high incidence of COVID-19 in the place you’re planning to visit? Before you go, check the Harvard Global Health Institute’s COVID-19 hot spot map.
  • Do you have concerns that you and your fellow travelers will have trouble strictly following key preventive measures to limit your exposure?
  • Keeping at least 6 feet of physical distance from others
  • Wearing masks correctly
  • Adhering to proper hand hygiene
  • Avoiding high touch surfaces and touching your face
  • Are you or is someone you’ll be traveling with at increased risk of developing critical health issues should you or they get COVID-19?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, consider waiting. Above all, do not travel if you are sick, if anyone in your travel party is sick, or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.    

If you answer “no” to most of these questions, you might feel more comfortable with the idea of traveling. Here are some additional considerations to help you decide:

  • What are the travel restrictions at your destination? Some places, such as Hawaii, require you to quarantine for 14 days before you are allowed into public areas. Do you have enough vacation time--and budget--to allow for that?
  • What activities do you plan to do when you get to your destination? Can you do those in physically distant ways? Will they make the trip worthwhile?
  • Will your employer require you to quarantine after you return from your trip?
  • How confident are you that rest stops, gas station restrooms and restaurants will be open along your route? If some will be closed, what is your back-up plan?
  • Are your reservations refundable? A community’s case count might be low when you make the arrangements but could spike shortly before you arrive.
  • What is your game plan if you get sick?
  • How and where will you self-isolate?

“I would really encourage people to continue to look for staycation opportunities,” Kroll said. “This may be the summer to hike, bike or boat in your own community; pitch your tent in your own backyard; or cook some special dinners with the menu and music inspired by the place you wish you could be.”

Ultimately, people have to make up their own minds about what works for them and their families while following state and local laws and other guidelines intended to lessen the risk for everyone.

Kroll said: “Bottom line, if you are going, control as much as you can around the exposure to you and your traveling companions.”

More pointers from Kroll are available at this website.

About PeaceHealth: PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Wash., is a not-for-profit Catholic health system offering care to communities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. PeaceHealth has approximately 16,000 caregivers, a group practice with more than 900 providers and 10 medical centers serving both urban and rural communities throughout the Northwest. In 1890, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace founded what has become PeaceHealth. The Sisters shared expertise and transferred wisdom from one medical center to another, always finding the best way to serve the unmet need for healthcare in their communities. Today, PeaceHealth is the legacy of the founding Sisters and continues with a spirit of respect, stewardship, collaboration and social justice in fulfilling its Mission. Visit us online at peacehealth.org.

 

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