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Summer travel can happen even during a pandemic

Written By: Laura Frnka-Davis | Updated: June 16, 2020
Personal traveling at airport

The recent COVID-19 quarantines have everyone itching to travel. By taking a few simple precautions, you can do so safely.

Our lives have been anything but ordinary since the arrival of COVID-19. Many of us are getting restless and wondering if it’s safe to travel this summer for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

Charles Ericsson, MD, an infectious disease and travel medicine specialist with UT Physicians, says that it is safe to travel if you’re smart about it and take the necessary precautions.

“Wearing a face mask is probably the No. 1 thing you can do personally to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus,” said Ericsson, who is a professor of internal medicine at the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “If everyone would wear a mask, we wouldn’t need to be so concerned with cleaning our environments because the No. 1 way this virus spreads is through the transmission of respiratory droplets.”

Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/The University of Texas Medical School at Houston Office of Communications
Charles D. Ericsson, MD

You may think that airline travel would be risky during this time. While every mode of transportation poses risks, if everyone wears a mask, airline travel is relatively safe. Most airlines are requiring that you wear masks while in flight, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.

Even so, some people may feel more comfortable traveling by car because they – to some extent – have control of their surroundings. Keep in mind, however, that you come into close contact with other people and surfaces when you stop for gas, eat at a restaurant, or use a public restroom. “It really comes down to being compliant and following the rules,” said Ericsson, who plans on taking a vacation himself this summer, including air travel.

And while it’s rare, he said he has heard of individuals contracting COVID-19 through their eyes, so in addition to masks, Ericsson suggests purchasing goggles or a face shield as an added measure.

The CDC also provides the following tips when it comes to traveling this summer.

  • If you do not know your own COVID-19 status, you should be especially careful when visiting friends or family who are elderly or have serious underlying medical problems. In that setting, everyone should wear a mask and socially distance even at home.
  • Take enough of your medications to last you your entire trip.
  • Pack extra alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and keep it within reach for everyone to use.
  • Wear a mask in public places.
  • In case restaurants are closed where you are going, pack some nonperishable food.
  • Check with the state or local health departments along your route and your destination to see what kinds of restrictions are in place.

For more facts and information about the coronavirus, visit our information center. For additional guidance on traveling during COVID-19, visit the CDC.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.