Answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to stay safe while traveling this summer amid COVID-19.

Your Health, Coronavirus Updates, Primary Care | 3 years ago

Traveling this Summer? Follow these Tips to Stay Safe During COVID-19

We get it – summer is the ideal time to travel. And while certain states are allowing beaches, pools, parks and other recreational areas to reopen in limited capacity, it remains critical for those traveling to follow the appropriate safety precautions to keep themselves and others from exposure to COVID-19. Here, Kyle Cunningham, MD MPH, shares his top tips for travel safety.

After months of feeling cooped up in our homes amid the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic, state restrictions have finally begun to loosen — just in time for summer. And while you may not be taking your dream trip to Italy this year, many families are opting for mini vacations to the beach, the mountains, or even their neighborhood pool. But is it safe? With COVID-19 still at large within our surrounding communities, there is always the possibility of exposure. But by following the appropriate safety precautions, you can travel with less risk of transmission for both yourself and for others.

Here, Kyle Cunningham, MD, MPH, a trauma and critical care surgeon at Atrium Health shares his response to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding travel safety during the pandemic.

Question 1: Is it safe to swim at the beach or in a swimming pool in my neighborhood or hotel?

Answer 2 | Dr. Cunningham: According to the CDC, there’s no evidence that the coronavirus can spread through the pool water. Nothing is perfectly safe, but if the pool is chlorinated, that’s probably enough to make it reasonably safe. While at the pool, also be sure you’re adhering to social distancing guidelines – and don’t forget basic water safety!

Q2: How can I make myself safer in the pool?

A2 | Dr. Cunningham: Practice staying 6 ft. away from others and wear a mask when you’re not in the water. Make sure to cover coughs and sneezes, and if you are feeling sick stay away from these areas and stay home.

Q3: Is it risky to travel by plane?

A3 | Dr. Cunningham: It’s important to note that airplanes and airports don’t go without risk. 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. While airplanes have special filters and airflow to reduce risk of airborn germs, as we learn more about COVID-19, we know that flying might put yourself at risk. This is especially true when social distancing can’t be maintained on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to COVID-19.

Q4: What is the best way to keep yourself safe when flying?

A4 | Dr. Cunningham: Consider bringing cleaning wipes and wiping down high touch surfaces. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds directly before and after going through screening. And last, make it a priority to keep your face mask on at all times possible.

Q5: What are airlines doing to keep planes clean?

A5 | Dr. Cunningham: To see what specific airports and airlines are doing to protect passengers, we recommend you check their websites. Transport Security Administration (TSA) has increased cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces at screening checkpoints and are also taking the following measures:

  • They are wearing masks and gloves, and practicing social distancing.
  • They are changing gloves after each pat-down.
  • Plastic shields are worn by TSA officers at the document checking podium, bag search and drop off locations.

Q6: I’ve heard certain airlines are going to “fill” planes at full-capacity soon. If you wear a mask, can you keep yourself safe that close?

A6 | Dr. Cunningham: Distance is still key. If you’re able to choose your seat, window seats are better than aisle due to frequent traffic in the aisle. 

Q7: If I’m traveling by car, what is the best recommendation for safe travel?

A7 | Dr. Cunningham: It’s important to use the same safety measures as you use at home, including the following safety precautions:

  • Consider bringing wipes and wiping down high touch surfaces.
    • Maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) between you and others as much as possible.
    • Avoid crowds.
    • Wear a cloth face covering.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Cover coughs and sneezes.
    • Clean your hands often. It's especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Be sure to use soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • And remember to buckle up!

Q8: At the beach/in the mountains/or in a situation when you can’t socially distance, what do you recommend people do to balance having a “fun” vacation and keep themselves from getting COVID?

A8 | Dr. Cunningham: If an activity is going to put you at risk, consider alternative activities or new ways to enjoy your environment while observing appropriate distancing. The outdoors is generally safer than indoors, as there is better air flow and you can social distance.

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