The coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed all aspects of traveling when the United States and most nations implemented stay-at-home orders and closed their borders to reduce travel risks to the population at large.
As vaccinations became available for every adult in the United States and approved for children over 12, the world of travel slowly got back on its feet.
With that being said, vacation plans via cruise ships, airports, and train stations remained a serious concern with COVID-19 variants seemingly sprouting. So, just how different did travel become & how were risks controlled?
Reducing the Risks of Travel
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides pertinent travel information for such instances. Fully vaccinated travelers, or those who had tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days, were found to be less likely to spread or catch COVID-19. However, individuals with a weakened immune system due to medications or a medical condition weren’t completely protected, even when fully vaccinated.
Travelers not fully vaccinated remained at a higher risk of spreading and catching COVID-19 and its circulating variants like Delta. The advice was given to unvaccinated individuals and at-risk persons of any age: avoid nonessential trips, including school trips, tournaments, work conferences, and vacation.
The CDC recommended that unvaccinated individuals have a viral test done 1 to 3 days before a trip. Travelers could delay their journey until their test results are available and carry a copy with them during travel.
Retests for unvaccinated travelers within 3-5 days after their trip was encouraged. This would include the reduction of nonessential activities for a week, even if the results were negative.
If unvaccinated travelers chose not to get retested after their trip, mitigate unnecessary activities for approximately 10 days. If at any point they tested positive, they should isolate at home and follow public health recommendations.
Taking a proactive approach could have reduced the risks of catching COVID-19 or a variant while traveling. First, the CDC recommended all travelers check the up-to-date number of COVID cases in the areas included in their travel itinerary. If traveling out of the country, it’s been advised to check the CDC international COVID map; locations with a level 2, 3, or 4 are considered high risk.
Travelers should consider the members they will be traveling with, especially if anyone could be at high risk. Daily precautions while traveling could significantly have minimized the risk, which are:
- maintaining social distance
- wearing a mask around individuals who are outside of the small group
- avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth unless their hands have been washed
According to the CDC, airplane travel’s considered low risk for the spread of COVID when safety precautions are upheld by both airports & travelers. The safety precautions included:
- the use of masks
- air circulation
- air filters
Most airlines utilize HEPA filters and disinfect high-touch surfaces, seatbelts, and trays between flights. Some airlines have adjusted seating to allow for social distancing.
Public transportation, including travel by bus, train, airplane, and other shared vehicles, requires close contact for extended periods, which increases the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. Safety measures known to have reduced the risks of disease transmission are as follows:
- sanitizing surfaces
- wearing masks to cover the nose and mouth
- hand washing
- having an open window while on the train
COVID-19 and variants spread quickly between individuals in close quarters, such as a cruise ship. The CDC recommends that individuals who are not fully vaccinated avoid cruise ship travel. Cruise ship travelers should be tested 1 to 3 days before their trip and 3 to 5 days after, regardless of vaccination.
Travelers should wear a mask to keep their noses and mouths covered while in shared spaces. Individual cruises may require that passengers and crew wear masks on board the ship. After traveling on a cruise, individuals should self-quarantine for seven days even if they test negative. Individuals who do not get tested after traveling on a cruise should quarantine for ten days.
Are you planning to take a trip in the near future? How prepared are you to avoid unnecessary travel risks? Please leave a comment below.