ORLANDO, Fla. - As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday more than half of Americans say they plan on traveling despite COVID-19 concerns, according to a new survey by Trip Advisor.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people avoid travel this holiday season and instead celebrate in small groups.
But OrlandoHealth Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Antonio Crespo said, “We understand that these are special occasions, people have been wanting to get together with family members and friends and at some point it may happen.”
Dr. Crespo said if you do plan on traveling over the holidays you must take precautions to minimize your risk of potentially contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
Should you quarantine before or after your trip?
Yes and no.
Dr. Crespo understands it is difficult to fully self-isolate for 14 days before a trip so he recommends increasing safety precautions instead.
“If it's possible, avoid gatherings that can increase the risk. Avoid going to public places. Be sure that you are strict with use of your mask when you're going to be around others. I think those would be the precautions that I would ask people to take before they decide to travel.”
Should you get a COVID-19 test before or after your trip?
“You can have a negative test today and be positive tomorrow or next day, so it doesn't mean if you have a negative test… that you are completely out of risk of having COVID-19.”
Dr. Crespo said testing is important and it is recommended if someone has symptoms or if they have been exposed to someone with Coronavirus.
“In general, I routinely thinks it is more important that we take the precautions that that we know we have to take… Otherwise, it would be very difficult just with testing to be sure that that you're not going to be a contagious or able to transmit the disease at some point.
What is the safest mode of transportation?
“If you're going to travel alone, that's obviously going be the safest. If you're going to travel with somebody else that you trust [who has] also been taking a precautions, close to your inner circle, that also could be safer.”
Dr. Crespo said mass transit options like planes, trains and busses will increase your exposure risk. “They’re all probably similar in terms of risk. Airplanes and airlines have taken a lot of precautions, probably more standardizing the mode in the precautions that they’re taking. But once you are in in a place with other people, in a terminal waiting, there’s always going to be an increase [in] risk.”
If you are traveling via mass transit Dr. Crespo recommends practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and practicing good hand hygiene.
Where should you stay once you reach your destination?
Dr. Crespo said, in general, anytime you are in a public place your risk of exposure increases.
“Avoid as [much as possible] close spaces with a lot of people, that in general, people have to remember, that is the highest risk when you have multiple people in a closed space. So as much as you can, stay outdoors.”
He also recommends practicing the same safety precautions you would take if you are traveling via mass transit.
Dr. Crespo recommends trying to stay outside as much as possible. “Keep in mind that when a college student comes back home. Yes, it is your home, but you've been out of the household.” He recommends wearing a mask when around other people and if possible, sleeping in a separate room to decrease the exposure risk.
“All of us at some point could acquire COVID-19. We may not know that we have it for a period of time before we develop symptoms or even if we remain totally asymptomatic we can still translate the virus. So you have to assume that you could potentially have the disease or that anybody else... in the place you are visiting could also have COVID-19 so keep practicing the precautions.”
Should you research COVID-19 statistics in your destination city?
“That is very important when people are moving from one location to another, is to find out what is the rate of the infection in that particular location.” Dr. Crespo said that goes both ways, for people who are coming into town or if you are going out of town. He said you can find the information by going the department of health’s website for that particular county.
Dr. Crespo said you should research the information before you make a decision about whether or not to travel.
“If you are expecting people, maybe you should tell them you know maybe this is not the best time to come, you know, we're having a lot of transmission here in our city.”
Dr. Crespo said he knows celebrating the holidays with added precautions could be difficult for some but he said it is vital that we make the effort.
“I think that being around your family and your friends and your loved ones is very important for all of us.” But he cautioned, “This is not the time to let the guard down. The virus is still out there, it is still causing a lot of trouble.”