Wanna get away — or just get together with family and friends? Springtime often brings travel, graduations, weddings and other family functions. As relaxing as a trip to the beach or a big family holiday might sound, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would like you to reconsider.
Because traveling and large gatherings increase the chance of both getting and spreading COVID-19, the CDC recommends staying home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
But, if you’ve already booked a trip or can’t bear to miss out on seeing family or friends — there are some steps you can take to minimize your risks associated with travel or get-togethers.
See what safety precautions to take when attending or hosting get-togethers.
Tips to Make Travel Safer
The CDC released new travel guidelines April 2 for those who are fully vaccinated. Those individuals:
- Can travel within the U.S. and don’t need to be tested for COVID-19 before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
- Don’t need to get tested for COVID-19 before leaving the U.S. (unless required by the destination) or self-quarantine after arriving back in the U.S.
Learn more about the CDC’s recent recommendations regarding fully vaccinated individuals.
For all travelers, the CDC recommends taking these steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:
- Get tested with a viral test one to three days before you travel. You can call your medical provider or visit your state or local health department to find out where to get this kind of test. (This does not apply to fully vaccinated individuals.) Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel in case you are asked for them. Don’t travel if you test positive. Instead, immediately isolate yourself and follow public health recommendations.
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public settings. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet (about two arm lengths) from anyone who didn’t travel with you. Do this everywhere — both indoors and outdoors.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Traveling internationally? All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the U.S. See the CDC's Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
How You Travel Makes a Difference
According to the CDC, all travel includes the potential for exposure to COVID-19. Here are some specific risks to watch out for, based on how you travel:
- Air travel — Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Also, social distancing can be difficult on crowded flights, and sitting within 6 feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. How you get to and from the airport, such as through public transportation and ridesharing, also can increase your chances of being exposed to the virus.
- Bus or train travel — Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can include being in crowded terminals and sitting or standing within 6 feet of others, which may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. If you choose to travel by bus or train, learn what you can do to protect yourself on public transportation.
- Car travel — Making stops along the way for gas, food or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.
- RV travel — You may have to stop less often for food or bathroom breaks, but RV travel usually means staying at RV parks overnight and getting gas and supplies, which may put you and those with you in close contact with others.
- For all travel — Bring extra supplies for all those in your travel party, including masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Learn more about how to protect yourself from COVID-19 on different types of transportation.
Stay Safe Once You Get There
What you do when you get to your destination is just as important as how you get there. As always, the CDC recommends that you take the same safety precautions you’d take at home, such as avoiding crowds, wiping down surfaces and wearing a mask around people who don’t live with you.
Once you arrive at your hotel, for instance, be sure to wear a mask in the lobby or other common spaces and minimize use of areas that may lead to close contact (within 6 feet) with other people — like inside dining or lounging areas, game rooms, spas/salons and fitness centers. Also, wipe down your hotel room’s frequently touched surfaces and items. When visiting tourist attractions or restaurants, follow the same masking and physical distancing rules you would when venturing out at home.
When visiting public swim areas, such as beaches, wear masks when you’re not in the water and bring extra supplies, including two masks for each person (in case one gets wet), hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, disinfectant wipes, tissues and paper towels. Whether you’re in or out of the water, stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with, and avoid crowded swim areas, beaches, pools, water playgrounds and hot tubs where you cannot stay 6 feet away from others.
Tips for After You Travel
The CDC recommends taking the follow steps after you return from your trip:
- Get tested with a viral test three to five days after your trip, and stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel. You can call your medical provider or visit your state or local health department to find out where to get a viral test. (This does not apply to fully vaccinated individuals.)
- Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full seven days. (This does not apply to fully vaccinated individuals.)
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel. (This does not apply to fully vaccinated individuals.)
- Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
- Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
- Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.
In short, the CDC recommends that most people avoid both travel and large gatherings. But, if that beach vacation or family event is calling your name, just remember to take the proper precautions — and you can still have fun while minimizing your risks. See more information from the CDC about traveling during the pandemic.
BJC HealthCare is working hard to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to those who are eligible, according to federal and state guidelines. You can now directly schedule your COVID-19 vaccine, either Pfizer or Moderna, at bjc.org/coronavirus. By getting vaccinated, you’re taking care of your health as well as your family, friends and community. We strongly encourage the vaccine for anybody who is eligible to receive it, and we recommend that you accept the first opportunity provided to receive a vaccine.