Summer travel during pandemic times

Get ready for summer vacations in 2021 with advice from Ranjini Madhavan, MD, Internal Medicine doctor at Ascension Medical Group, Wichita, Kansas

Dr. Ranjini Madhavan, M.D., Internal Medicine | Ascension Medical Group, Wichita, Kansas

It’s summer, and that means it’s time for vacation. School is out in most states, and parents are looking for places to travel with their families. With COVID-19 vaccinations now available for patients age 12 and older, vacation plans appear doable if you are vaccinated or take appropriate precautions, per The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Smaller kids who are unvaccinated carry the risk of being infected with COVID-19 if they cannot wear masks consistently. It may be better for parents to consider road trips and simple activities, like nature walks and less-crowded places if they have children younger than 12 years of age.

Domestic travel recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated persons

CDC recommends delaying travel until one is fully vaccinated because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. For details on testing requirements for domestic travel, please visit the CDC’s site here.  

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

Travel to international destinations

CDC uses THNs or travel health notices to alert travelers and other audiences to health threats around the world and advise on how to protect themselves. You can view CDC’s travel requirements and recommendations by destination here.

Mask guidance when traveling

Masks are an absolute must if traveling by air (including airports) and other public transportation such as buses and trains for almost all people*, including those fully vaccinated. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has extended this federal mandate through Sept.13, 2021. 

CDC has specified the types of masks permitted for travel, including for airlines. It requires the mask to be properly worn, covering the nose and mouth and should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face. Masks should be a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves or punctures.  

  • Cloth masks: Cloth masks should be made with two or more layers of breathable fabric that is tightly woven and should be secured to the head with ties, ear loops or elastic bands that go behind the head.  
  • Medical masks/N-95 respirators: Medical masks and N-95 respirators fulfill the requirements of the mandate.  

*Only the following categories of people are exempt from the requirement to wear a mask: 

  • A child under the age of two years, and
  • Disabled persons who are exempt based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Vacation rentals

The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets. It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low. 

With regard to vacation rentals, book homes that have an enhanced safety process, which includes wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and abiding by an enhanced cleaning process.

Vacation Activities 

Always consider how COVID-19 is spreading in the community, the number of people participating in the activity, and the location of the activity. Outdoor visits and activities are safer than indoor activities, and fully vaccinated people can participate in some indoor events safely, without much risk.

Don’t delay care for illness or injury this summer

Lastly, we are fortunate in the U.S. that our COVID-19 cases and fatality numbers are finally falling. Despite all the safety precautions, emergency health situations or sickness during any travel may arise. In those cases, patients are encouraged to contact their primary care doctor or provider and ask if a virtual or online visit is available. You can also find a doctor near you or get online urgent care 24/7 in all 50 states with Ascension Online Care. If the health situation is serious or life-threatening, go to the nearest ER or call 911.