- Experts are predicting a large surge in summer travel now that COVID-19 cases are falling and mask mandates are lifting.
- If you’re fully vaccinated, you should be relatively safe. However, there are certain cases where you’ll still want to wear a mask, such as when you’re using public transportation.
- Outdoor activities are the best option for families with unvaccinated children.
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Experts expect a large surge in travel this year compared to last year when we were still in the midst of the pandemic.
In fact, AAA News predicts that over Memorial Day weekend alone, more than 37 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home. This represents a 60 percent increase over the record low set last year, according to the nonprofit motor club.
However, before you begin planning your summer vacation, you may have some questions about how to remain safe.
Healthline spoke with two doctors to get answers about what you need to know about summer travel and COVID-19 precautions.
“The first thing people should consider when they travel is vaccine status,” said Dr. Jarod Fox, an infectious disease expert at Orlando Health in Florida.
By now, he said most adults have had the opportunity to receive at least one dose of a vaccine.
“If fully vaccinated, which means two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the J&J vaccine, then travel this Memorial Day weekend should be relatively safe,” Fox said.
The next thing to consider is underlying health conditions, he said.
He explained that if you have a chronic respiratory condition or obesity, you may want to be cautious, because if you get COVID-19 you’re more likely to have complications.
“That being said, Memorial Day and the other summer holidays tend to be outdoor events for the most part, so the risk for a vaccinated individual is extremely low, even with underlying health conditions,” said Fox.
“The last thing to consider is whether there will be any unvaccinated members in your travel party, including kids or other individuals unable to receive the vaccine for a particular reason,” he said. “It would be recommended that those individuals still wear masks if they are going to be indoors for a prolonged period of time with large crowds.”
Fox said that if other family members are vaccinated, unvaccinated children should safely be able to participate in most activities, especially if outdoors.
“Children have, for the most part, been spared the serious outcomes of COVID-19 infection, and if those around them are vaccinated, their risk is even lower of getting infected,” he explained.
“If you are going to be in a crowded indoor venue for a lengthy amount of time, then it may be prudent to have the children wear a mask if they’re able to do so; but, other than that, I would proceed with my travel plans without much worry if the adults are vaccinated,” he added.
“Great activities with younger children should typically have the ability to socially distance when around crowds,” added Dr. Mark Conroy, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“The zoo, playgrounds, and local pools are all good options as long as there is opportunity to distance,” he said.
“Even if vaccinated, it is important to still wear masks when on many modes of transportation (airplanes, buses, etc.),” said Conroy.
“People should review local guidelines for where they’re traveling and abide by regulations even if they differ from where they are coming from,” he added.
Fox seconded the idea of masking when on public transportation.
In addition, he suggested that if people have some sort of underlying medical condition — like severe asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — and are planning to be in a crowded indoor venue for a lengthy amount of time, it would be a good idea to wear a mask.
However, he added, “Most vaccinated members of society should feel comfortable to go about their normal lives again and this should encourage those unvaccinated individuals to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Fox continued that the main time a vaccinated individual would want to mask would be if they develop any symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 or if an outbreak is occurring where they’re located.
- chills or fever
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- body or muscle aches
- loss of smell or taste
- sore throat
- runny nose or congestion
- vomiting or nausea
“Masks are important even when vaccinated because there is emerging evidence that vaccinated individuals can still get infected,” Conroy said. “We’ve seen situations where clusters of individuals have developed symptoms despite vaccination.”
According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines have an effectiveness of 90 percent or greater. However, it’s possible that a small percentage of people will still get COVID-19, possibly leading to hospitalization or even death.
It’s not known how common these breakthrough cases are.