As rapidly as the coronavirus outbreak has been unfolding, it’s hard to predict what life will be like by the summer.
But with the prime vacation season approaching, many people are wondering whether they should push forward with travel plans — or just plan to stay nested.
Experts urge considering the following advice before locking in reservations.
STAY UP TO DATE ON TRAVEL ADVISORIES
Deciding whether to cancel your plans largely depends on where you want to go.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to just about anywhere outside the United States.
Experts recommend keeping an eye on other sources, including the U.S. State Department travel advisories, Canadian travel advisories and U.K. travel advisories.
Travel advisories can change quickly, so be sure to check regularly for updates.
Kumi Smith, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, told CNN Travel that travel restrictions probably will be lifted only when transmissions of coronavirus have stopped or significantly slowed.
No one can say when exactly that will be.
“The predictive mathematical models are being built, and the whole point of that is to try to give lawmakers, authorities and public health officials some grasp of what’s going on,” Smith told CNN, adding that she isn’t making any definite vacation plans. “But as new cases come in, that new data is being fed into the models; it’s updated every day.”
BE CAREFUL ABOUT TRAVELING WITHIN THE U.S.
CDC advisories instruct residents in areas particularly hard-hit by the virus, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, to avoid nonessential domestic travel.
And the CDC has a few tips to consider before making domestic travel plans.
You’re likely to be safer staying at home than going on vacation if the virus isn’t spreading in your hometown but is present in the area you want to go. The CDC says this is especially true if your plans include being in large public places, such as amusement parks.
And if the virus is spreading where you live but not in the area you’re planning to go, you could risk carrying the illness to a lot more people.
Also, you should take extra precautions if you live with someone who is at high risk of serious illness but isn’t going on the trip with you. Your travel could put them in danger when you return.
“We actually do want to start thinking, ‘Well, do I really need to take that trip to go on vacation?’ ” Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology and immunology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The New York Times. “If it were me, I think I would probably try to decrease my risk as much as possible, and one way to do that is reducing travel.”
Others say taking a road trip or visiting the great outdoors is a better way to social distance. It’s easier to stay 6 or more feet away from people at a campsite or a remote beach, for example, than in crowded cities. And traveling in your own vehicle or a rental car is a good way to avoid crowded transportation.
AIR TRAVEL IS RELATIVELY SAFE, BUT CRUISES ARE NOT
The CDC says germs and viruses probably don’t spread easily on planes because of the way cabin air is filtered and circulated. The risk of infection on a plane is low, but you should wash your hands often and avoid people who are sick.
However, cruise ships present a much higher risk because of the close contacts that can cause the virus to spread. The CDC says the multiple reports of clusters on cruise ships is evidence of the high risk for disease transmission in close quarters.
The U.S. State Department also warns against travel on cruise ships.
“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” an advisory says. “In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”
IF YOU’RE IN A HIGH-RISK GROUP, YOU MIGHT WANT TO RECONSIDER TRAVELING
Public health officials have said adults over 65 and people with chronic underlying health conditions are at the highest risk of developing serious complications if they get COVID-19.
High-risk health conditions include chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, a compromised immune system, diabetes, severe obesity, liver disease and chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, according to the CDC.
Not much is known about the risk of pregnant women developing complications if they contract the virus, but the CDC says it’s a good idea for them to take precautions. Pregnant women are known to be at higher risk for serious illness with other viral respiratory diseases, including influenza.
If you or someone you’re traveling with falls into higher-risk categories, you might reconsider your travel plans, experts say.
BE READY TO BE ASKED TO QUARANTINE WHEN YOU GET BACK
The CDC is asking people to self-quarantine for 14 days when they return from international travel. If you travel to an area affected by the virus this summer, you may be asked to do the same when you get back.
You also may come in contact with someone who is sick on your way back, and you could be asked to quarantine.
Before you make travel arrangements, consider whether you have at least two weeks to spare before you have to return to important work or other events.
CONSIDER GETTING TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel experts also suggest buying travel insurance in case you need to cancel. Make sure you thoroughly read your policy because you may not be able to get a refund if your reason for canceling the trip isn’t in the fine print.
A “cancel for any reason” policy can be a solution to coronavirus fears — but can be costly. The New York Times suggests comparing policies on websites such as TravelInsurance.com, Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Experts also recommend buying emergency medical coverage and emergency medical transportation coverage in case you do get sick while traveling.
IF YOU DO END UP TRAVELING, TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS
The CDC warns that plans are likely to be interrupted if you travel internationally, and it is possible you could end up stuck outside of the U.S. for extended periods if more restrictions are put in place.
But if you travel, the CDC says, you should be up to date on your vaccinations before you go, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine.
And of course you should be vigilant about washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and avoiding contact with ill people.
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