This will be a holiday season unlike any other any of us have witnessed. The threat of COVID infection is rising as the weather cools, and it also happens to be flu season. Between these two viruses, many are questioning how they can stay safe traveling to see loved ones this year or if they should just scrap this year's holiday plans and wait until next year. Currently, the percentage of positive tests is about 6% (CDC, 2020). Of course, that is not the individual risk of contracting the virus, which is much smaller, but just the percent of positive tests out of the total number of tests conducted.
COVID is spread by respiratory droplets produced when exhaling and is dispersed into the air and is then inhaled by other individuals or settles onto surfaces where they are picked up by an individual (CDC, 2020). To protect yourself from the virus and limit spread to others around you, limit travel and contact with others that are not necessary for daily life, wear a mask to reduce the number of respiratory droplets in the air, and when out in public, distance yourself from others when possible.
Do you need to travel in the first place?
The first thing we need to ask ourselves this holiday season is if we really need to travel in the first place. It may be safer to stay home and celebrate with immediate family members instead of large gatherings of people from different areas. If you have a family that resides in a different state, there may be travel restrictions set up either in your own state or the one you may be traveling to anyway. If your family is not getting together this year, do not forget about the elderly members of the family who may not have anyone around to celebrate with. Zoom could be a great way to connect with family this holiday season with no risk of transmitting the virus.
If you need to travel to see family this year, keep the gatherings small and physical contact to a minimum. If it is possible to celebrate outside, that will reduce the risk of transmission as well. Have one person dish out all of the food at mealtimes instead of setting up buffet-style. This will ensure that only one person is touching the utensils instead of every individual who attends.
Mode of Travel
If you are traveling this holiday season, weigh your travel options in terms of safety, price, and time. There are two main modes of transportation that we use during this time of year being automobile and air travel. Road tripping is the most recommended travel method this season as it is the safest assuming those riding in the car are people you live in the first place. If driving is an option, limit the number of stops and person to person contact at gas stations and when dining.
Driving is the safest and maybe the cheaper option but is not always doable because of distance. If this is the case, air travel may be the only option when traveling to see family. Although flying is not as safe as driving, it is still remarkably safe. All airline passengers and crew members are required to wear masks at all times. Also, the air quality and ventilation in the cabin of the plane are very high. The air volume in the cabin is refreshed every two to four minutes flushing out any respiratory air droplets floating around (Schive, 2020).
Wear a Mask and Social Distance
By this point, wearing a mask and social distancing should be common knowledge in the fight against COVID transmission. Many places such as businesses, airports/planes, and even cities and states may require you to wear a mask. Make sure the mask is covering your nose and mouth at all times, and you have multiple masks to wear as they will become dirty from catching all of your respiratory droplets all day. Another consideration is the material your mask is made out of. A good test to see if your mask is doing its job (restricting the flow of respiratory droplets) is to try to blow out a candle with your mask on. If you can blow out the candle, get a new mask made of a different material.
Keeping social distance is another way to fight the spread even if everyone is wearing a mask. Masks can help catch a majority of droplets, but some will get past. If everyone keeps their distance (approximately six feet), these droplets will not get close enough to be inhaled or attach to surfaces on the individual.
Traveling this holiday season will increase your risk of infection of COVID-19. So first, ask yourself if you really need to travel in the first place or if this year's festivities can be skipped. However, there are ways to limit the risk if you still need to travel. Driving is the safest mode of transportation but may not make sense because of distance. Air travel is not as safe as driving but is much safer than you may think, with face coverings mandatory and great air quality and ventilation inside of airplanes. Finally, wear a clean mask at all times and keep your distance when possible. If you practice these and plan ahead, you will reduce yours and your loved one's risk of exposure to the virus when traveling this holiday season.
Center of Disease Control. (2020). COVIDView: A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html
Center of Disease Control. (2020). Scientific Brief: SARS-CoV-2 and Potential Airborne Transmission. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/scientific-brief-sars-cov-2.html
Schive, K. (2020). How Safe is Air Travel. Retrieved October 26, 2020, from https://medical.mit.edu/covid-19-updates/2020/09/how-safe-air-travel