How to travel safely

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Summer is here, which means it’s travel season! You may be heading on a family road trip, or boarding a plane for sunny beaches or a ship for a relaxing cruise. Whatever your travel plans are, there are ways to stay safe from COVID-19.

Most importantly, make sure you’re up to date with all your vaccinations and boosters. COVID-19 is still circulating across Oregon, the United States and the world, and the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants are highly  transmissible. The COVID-19 vaccines reduce chances of infection and provide excellent protection against becoming severely ill or hospitalized.

Here’s a list of other tips and guides on how to stay safe while traveling.

Before you leave, ask yourself:

  • Am I or anyone I’m traveling with or visiting immune compromised or at high risk for severe disease? If yes, take extra precautions like wearing a mask indoors in public places and make sure everyone involved in the trip has all their recommended vaccine doses.
  • Have I gotten a COVID-19 test recently? Many people are asymptomatic even when infected, so before you travel, take a test as close as possible to the time of departure, no more than three days before departing, to catch a possible infection. Follow isolation guidelines if you do test positive.
  • If I get COVID-19 while traveling, can I afford to isolate for at least five days at my destination? If you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate away from people for at least five days, depending on where you are (other countries might have different isolation requirements). Before you go anywhere, make sure that this will be feasible should you become ill.

Where are you going and how are you getting there?

Different kinds of travel comes  with different safety considerations. Airports and airplanes can be crowded, so wear a well-fitting mask while traveling by air. When traveling by car, wear a mask at rest stops, restaurants and anywhere else you stop and spend time indoors. If you’re taking a cruise, check with the cruise line about any COVID-19 regulations such as testing before boarding, masking requirements or requirements for deboarding in other countries.

Regardless of the type of travel, pack plenty of masks and a few tests in case you’re exposed to COVID-19  or start feeling symptoms.

If you’re traveling within the U.S.,  use the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 Community Levels data to determine how much COVID-19 is circulating at your destination. These levels are based on factors such as hospital capacity, which indicates whether there would be hospital beds available if you were to become severely ill.

You can also check wastewater monitoring data if your destination is in the U.S. The COVID-19 virus can be measured in public wastewater, and if levels of the virus are rising at your destination, it means COVID-19 is circulating more.

Checking regulations in other countries

Some countries may have requirements, such as a negative COVID-19 test or mandatory quarantine upon arrival, for travel. For international travel, you can first check the CDC’s website for travel recommendations by destination, sorted from Level 1 (“low risk”) to Level 4 (“Do Not Travel”).

Then check the U.S. Department of State’s website for  COVID-19-related rules for different countries. For example, Canada requires you register with its travel program ArrivCAN and be fully vaccinated to enter the country. Air travelers to Canada may be randomly selected to take a COVID-19 test. If you do not register with ArrivCan or are partially vaccinated, you are subject to testing or mandatory quarantine.

If you’re traveling to Mexico, you may have your temperature checked, but proof of a negative test is not required. If you’re exhibiting symptoms, you are subject to more health screenings, mandatory quarantine or being turned away.

When you return to the U.S. from any international destination, you no longer have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

You can also enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which connects U.S. citizens to U.S. embassies around the world. STEP is a free service that keeps travelers informed about important updates such as the COVID-19-related travel updates. It also makes it easier for travelers to connect with loved ones in the U.S. in the event of an emergency.

Regardless of where you travel or how you get there, practice basic COVID-19 safety measures like wearing a well-fitting mask indoors, staying up to date on all your vaccinations and isolating if you start to feel symptoms of COVID-19.

If you’re planning to participate in fun summer activities in your neighborhood or across Oregon, check out our story “Tips for a fun and safe summer.”

Before traveling anywhere, make a plan in case you test positive for COVID-19 while out of town. Ask yourself:

  • Where would I isolate away from people for at least five days?
  • What kind of medical services are available at my destination, and what is the CDC Community Level there?
  • Are COVID-19 treatments, like oral antivirals or monoclonal antibodies, available at my destination?
  • If I have insurance, will my insurance cover any medical expenses, including medications like Paxlovid, at my destination?
  • Do I have a support system at my destination if I become ill?