Experts Urge People to Stay Safe If They Must Travel During the Holiday Season

(BPT) – The holiday season is traditionally a time for family, friends and festivities, but this year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that Americans skip traveling to this year’s family gatherings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. In spite of these warnings, the number of travelers screened at U.S. airports continues to climb.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, the weekend following the CDC’s issued guidance (Nov. 20-22), U.S. airports saw over 2.4 million travelers go through TSA checkpoints.

“Research is showing that there will be a sharp increase in coronavirus infections over the holidays as so many head out to see loved ones — with some heading to areas with high infection rates,” said Dr. Alex Chen, Chief Medical Officer at Health Net. “How severe the increase is will come down to staying alert in public and maintaining key strategies that we have been practicing to minimize risk.”

Those planning to travel during the holidays have several routes to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for themselves and the family members they visit.

At the airport

  1. Wear your mask and maintain social distancing – While at TSA checkpoints, travelers anxious to get through security will have a tendency to bunch up. Be safe: wear a mask and do your best to stay six feet apart.
  2. Be careful what you touch – The TSA and most airlines are taking steps to ensure they sanitize high-touch areas. Just in case, bring a pack of your own sanitizing wipes when you travel and wash your hands often.
  3. Stay away from the food court – Dr. Chen recommends avoiding high-traffic areas. People are at the highest risk of being exposed to COVID when they eat and drink in close quarters. If possible, bring pre-made food to eat away from others.

At the hotel

  1. Check the occupancy rate – Staying at a hotel with fewer guests means less probability of an infection. It is also a good idea to ask about their sanitization procedures.
  2. Ask about COVID-specific upgrades – Hospital-grade HEPA filters are important because of possible aerosol transmission. It is also good to find out how long rooms remain empty between stays. Experts recommend at least 24 hours.
  3. Come prepared – Bring a pack of disinfectant wipes. Wipe down all surfaces, especially high-touch areas like keys, tables and doorknobs. Regularly use hand sanitizer throughout the day. It is also best to decline housekeeping to avoid coming into contact with people outside of your immediate family.

If you must travel during the holidays, it is important to remember all of these tips to prevent you or those you love from becoming infected with COVID-19. However, staying home and avoiding crowds is the most effective prevention, and can reduce the rate of infection at a time when the number of confirmed cases continues to climb fast.