With increasing COVID-19 cases hike day by day, is it good to go on holiday? Dr Keith Armitage states that one can go on holiday, but need to follow the same precautions that you follow at home. Dr Keith Armitage is the medical director of the Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health University Hospitals in Cleveland. Prior to COVID-19, the travel centre mainly supported people travelling abroad to ensure they were prepared for travel (such as vaccines). The Akron Beacon Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, kept asking Armitage his advice on summer travel plans in the midst of the nationwide rising COVID-19 cases.
As cases are spiking, should people be taking their summer vacations?
It is becoming more and more apparent that the real danger of transmitting coronavirus is being unmasked indoors with strangers. There is a real chance, whether you’re going to a bar or restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, versus a bar or restaurant in the Carolinas or Florida. The risk in the Carolinas or Florida is going to be higher right now but the risk in Cleveland is still high enough.
The best holiday will be travelling someplace, living in a facility where you’re not aggregated with so many people and doing outdoor events and not going to restaurants or bars indoors. There is a much smaller chance of being outside unless you’re on a crowded outdoor restaurant deck or bar. You have those superspreader events indoors where one person infects 50 to 100 people. I think people will enjoy biking, swimming, boating, fishing, or sightseeing and outdoor activities. It’s being indoors with strangers unmasked that people can stop.
If you’re outdoors, do you still need to make sure you are social distancing? I’ll give an example. I heard of a friend group of several families who rented boats and were mixed on the boats.
I ‘d call the danger medium. Every time you bring new people into your core group or if you meet four families, one of those individuals in the four families is likely to be asymptomatic. The danger is lower outdoors but with one family it will be easier to do it. If there were four families together and eat indoors, you could have a situation in which everybody gets sick. I think it’s less likely they shared a boat outdoors. The best thing is to do as much as possible as social distancing.
When a family travels by car to their vacation destination, what risks are there along the way, like public bathrooms?
We were still highly focussed on surfaces early on in the pandemic. You should also be taking care in high-touch areas. If you are stopping in a rest area and touching the door or touching the faucet, simply do a really good job of washing your hands or wiping the surfaces. Sometimes, if it is inside wear a mask.
Is it better to rent a house versus a hotel?
I think the best thing would be an Airbnb, or a condo. Most hotels are really taking measures to reduce risk, have online check-in, clear spaces, keep people out of the lobby, but again, with strangers it’s indoor. When you are going through the lobby of a hotel, you want a mask on. An Airbnb or a rental that had been vacant for a few days would be the perfect scenario.
If you need to be in a hotel for vacation or work travel, what should you do? Is there a concern with being indoors in a hotel room?
You ‘re Okay in your bed. Most of it depends on how the air circulation is (good). Higher-touch surfaces may be at risk in the room. You should wipe stuff down yourself, like the telephone and the doorknob and the remote control, the most important thing. I will miss the breakfast buffet area for dinner. Grab a hat, get food, and eat it in your bed.
But if I’m in a hotel room, I’m still indoors with strangers, albeit not in the room. Is it safe?
It’s not unlikely but I don’t think that the virus can travel from room to room through the hotel ventilation system. It is always a packed restaurant, and so on. The infection can be transmitted by people just talking loudly. Too many well-documented instances of bars and restaurants across the world, or a surprise birthday party where everyone gets it, often with disastrous results.
Are planes safe?
Aircraft have good circulation of air and good filters. When you are in row 2 and someone in row 30 is coughing you won’t get coronavirus. It won’t spread to that far. The chance is just a few rows of people around you. If everybody is wearing a mask, then the risk is very small. If people mask it, there’s good air circulation. The issue is that people get into the plane, bringing their mask down to their face. Masks are nuts. I get it. So if everybody on the plane was keeping their mask on for a two- or three-hour plane trip, I think the risk is very small. Travelling by plane isn’t high risk and masking will minimize the risk. Aircraft are much safer than bars or restaurants, as an indoor venue.
What about a long plane ride?
The shorter travel by plane, the better. With longer plane rides, compliance with consistent masking will be more difficult. That’s really the main difference
Once you’re at your vacation destination, is it better to try to take as many precautions, such as avoiding going to the grocery store (like getting delivery) or taking other precautions like you would while at home to avoid being indoors with strangers?
I guess the most important thing for holiday-goers – don’t eat inside. Don’t go into a club or pub. You also have to feed inside, to take off your mask to sleep. If there are social distances and dividers in the restaurant and everyone wears masks, the risk is lower. But that’s a nightmare scenario, a packed bar where people are talking loudly.
What about eating outside?
When there are a breeze and heat, eating outside where tables are spread out, I think that is a lesser risk. High-touch areas that get light, the virus doesn’t survive for long on them. When it’s hit by UV light, the virus disappears 10 times as fast.
If you were eating outside, would you still keep your mask on until you eat?
I ‘d go and try. This is just how attached to people I was. I assume there’s a lower chance of aerosols outside.
What about the beach? How safe is the beach and does it depend on how close I am to other people?
There is a low risk to the atmosphere where sun and breeze are present. If people can stay six to eight feet away, the risk is smaller. But this is what makes me uncomfortable when people are crowded together. And this isn’t being dangerous on the beach, it’s going to the bar or restaurant while you’re on the beach.
What about international travel?
The chance of flying longer is possibly higher. On longer flights, you’re in an aircraft for longer times and less enforcement. There are other hot spots, depending on where you go. It’s the same precautions everywhere you go in the world-it ‘s a longer plane ride and you’ve got to take the same precautions. Most countries still require you quarantine while you’re there, and you won’t be allowed out.
Speaking of quarantine, if you go on vacation to a state that has higher cases, like the Carolinas or Florida, should you quarantine yourself when you get back?
When you’ve taken appropriate care when you’re traveling, I don’t think when you come back you need to do something special. When you’ve been to Florida and went to nightclubs, you ‘re bound to quarantine as hell when you get back. I don’t think you need to quarantine if you go to Florida because you don’t go inside with strangers without a mask on and you take care while you fly and are there, do no high-risk habits. The bottom line is you can have a healthy vacation whether you are taking a car on holiday, renting a condo or house or staying in a hotel with sufficient mitigation.