As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, we get a glimmer of hope that the end of the pandemic may finally be within sight. Some families are even wondering if it may be safe to travel this spring. At the same time, many popular vacation spots like California, Florida, and Arizona, still struggle with some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections we’ve seen.
This pandemic is constantly evolving, and we are learning more every day. But this can be confusing for families trying to understand the everyday risks they face, let alone make plans. If you are considering a family getaway in coming months, here are some points to consider.
Most high-risk people (over 65 years of age and essential workers) are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it may not be until late spring or even summer of 2021 that other adults and teens over age 16 have access. And it will be even longer still before children can get a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s because vaccine trials for younger teens and children still need to be completed.
We are also seeing new variants of COVID-19 here in the United States. These new strains are showing to be more easily spread to others. Existing vaccines appear effective in protecting against these variants right now. However, experts predict that the virus will continue to spread this spring.
A Safer Bet
For families who want to get away, it may be a safer idea to focus on either summer or fall travel. Even if enough COVID-19 vaccines become available to the general public this spring, it will likely be summer before we see a big drop in community spread. Pushing those travel plans even just a few months down the road would not only be a safer option for your family–it will also help continue to prevent the spread to others.
If You Must Travel
For families determined to travel this spring, there are some steps that can help minimize COVID-19 risk. For example, traveling by car to a vacation rental home is much safer than flying to a busy hotel to spend the week at a crowded beach. The key is for families to think about the number of close contacts they’ll likely have during the course of their travels. The more contacts, the more likely one will be exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Other tips to help reduce risk:
- Check the COVID-19 spread rates where you plan to visit. Locations with high rates of community spread will put families at a high risk of being exposed to COVID-19. If your destination has high rates of spread, be extra cautious when your family is out in public. Be sure to wear face coverings and continue social distancing at all times.
- Try to travel by car if possible. While the airline industry has taken amazing steps in helping to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission (HEPA air filters, air exchange, electrostatic spraying), traveling by car will limit your contact with the public. In addition, the road trip experience can be a great way for older children to see new places. During any rest stops, remember to wear masks and wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Also, consider packing your own food and snacks.
- If you must fly: Try to look for direct flights when possible. That will limit the need to change planes and walk through busy airports. Plus, the shorter the flight the better, since longer flights raise the chance of infection. Keep your masks on for the entire flight; consider opting out of meals so you don’t have to remove them. Don’t forget to bring disinfectant wipes to sanitize all of the high-touch areas.
- Pack extra masks and hand sanitizers. Along with toothbrushes, diapers, and the portable crib, be sure to tote along those important pandemic essentials. Pack at least two masks per child in case one is lost or being washed after use. When packing hand sanitizer, include a travel-size dispenser that can be stored in a purse or backpack as well as a larger container for refills. Ensure that the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Have your family get their flu shot. Last year, we saw a record number of children from ages 0-4 years that needed to be hospitalized because of the flu. If you didn’t get them already, get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travel.
COVID-19 has affected everyone, and the past year has been stressful for families. With many already having canceled their recent holiday plans, this decision to travel for spring will likely be an emotional one. The urge to jump into a full fledged spring break trip might be tempting. But families should realize and consider the dangers of traveling while COVID-19 still spreads. If the vaccine rollout continues as hoped, your family will be able to enjoy a relaxing trip together soon. If you have questions about traveling please contact your provider at Kids First Pediatrics. Raleigh: 919-250-3478 or Clayton: 919-267-1499.