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How to travel safely amid COVID-19 -- and whether you should do it at all

Posted at 4:42 AM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 14:07:08-04

Chances are, you're aching to jet off to your favorite destination, stick your toes in the sand, and feel that ocean breeze on your face. If you've been plotting a tropical escape in your head, you're certainly not alone!

Earlier this month, the TSA said it screened more than five million passengers in a four-day period --that's the most travelers we've seen since March 2020 when the whole world was changing before our eyes.

Airports like Sky Harbor are getting busier and busier and with those summer temperatures just around the corner, you know more of us will want to escape the heat. Some airlines and destinations have required COVID testing or some kind of quarantine period. It helps, but how safe is it, and what do our ABC15 Health Insiders have to say?

"I've been pleased by the drastic increase in vaccinations," explains Dr. Piyush Gupta, "We're at about 2.5 million a day. We’ve had a negative trend of cases and hospitalizations. That being said, I want to remind people we are still in this pandemic."

And because our public health crisis isn't over yet, Dr. Gupta says we should follow the CDC's advice and still avoid unnecessary travel at this time.

But what about people who are fully vaccinated? We've got more than one million here in Arizona alone.

"The CDC recently introduced guidelines about social interactions about those who are vaccinated. It was a real nice change to see that people who are vaccinated can hang out with other people who don’t have a mask or people who are low-risk, but they purposely excluded non-essential travel for vaccinated people and I will continue to encourage everyone to follow those recommendations."

The CDC fears what they say is a clear-cut case of cause and effect -- more travel leads to more cases.

"We’ve seen it time and time again. With the holidays and in the summer when we started seeing more travel, we’ve seen this trend over and over."

But let's say you have to travel for a family emergency or for work -- what's the best way to stay safe? Dr. Gupta says it's back to basics.

"It’s going to be your same precautions that everyone has been trained to do this year. Social distance, avoid large crowds, especially indoors, mask in public, double mask if you’re able to and make sure it's a snug fit. Make sure it covers the nose and mouth and there is no air leaking when you breathe out."

And when it comes to wiping down your seat and any other surfaces on the plane, is that really necessary? Dr. Gupta says if it makes you feel comfortable and you have the time, go ahead and do it, but he wants us all to know hand hygiene is a lot more important. So if it's between the hand sanitizer and the disinfecting wipes, chose the hand sanitizer.