As soon as I got my vaccine appointment, I calculated when I would be fully protected, and started making travel plans. However, as the Delta variant began causing COVID-19 cases to rise throughout the country (even in vaccinated people), I started to reconsider my bookings. I’m not the only one rethinking travel―according to a survey by Travel Again, 61 percent of leisure travelers feel at least somewhat less confident about traveling due to the prevalence of COVID variants. But are these fears unfounded? I reached out to medical experts to find out.
Is It Safe to Travel Right Now With the New COVID-19 Variants?
How safe it is to travel right now varies from person to person. “Safety is a spectrum during this pandemic and requires thinking through personal risks and rewards, and trade-offs,” says Dr. Pia MacDonald, an epidemiologist at RTI International.” Dr. MacDonald advises travelers to consider the risk of the trip itself. A road trip across your home state that involves staying in a rental home and avoiding indoor dining/crowded indoor spaces would be at the lower end of the risk spectrum, whereas an international trip that involves multiple stops, taxi rides, and restaurants would be at the higher end.
Dr. Yvette McQueen recommends that travelers consider the risk at their destination as well. Before visiting, check your destination’s “positivity Covid rate (<10% is less risk), local regulations on mask policies and group meeting size, and availability of activities/tourist attractions.”
Consider your personal risk when deciding to travel as well. If you live with unvaccinated people (such as children) or can’t get vaccinated yourself, your risk is significantly higher than someone who is fully vaccinated.
Should Fully Vaccinated Travelers Consider Changing Their Plans?
“We don’t yet know the risk of a fully vaccinated person experiencing a breakthrough infection if exposed to the Delta variant,” says Dr. MacDonald. “But, we do know that it is possible for fully vaccinated people to become infected and to spread the virus to others,” she warns.
If you do travel, make sure you still follow CDC guidance around masking and testing.
“Use protective measures of mask and social distance if you don’t know or can’t control who you are in contact with, particularly indoors,” advises Dr. McQueen.
Keep in mind that the COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective against getting the virus and preventing serious illness if you do get infected.
“What is most critical to remember is that the COVID-19 vaccines available now are very effective at dramatically reducing the risk of severe disease requiring hospital care. COVID-19 is a vaccine-preventable disease, meaning we have an effective vaccine against this illness so people do not need to become severely sick or die from the disease anymore,” says Dr. MacDonald.
The decision to travel right now is ultimately a personal choice, and to make that choice, you should factor in the vaccination/health conditions of yourself and the people you live with, as well as the risk level at your destination. But above all, the absolute best thing you can do right now to stay safe from the Delta variant is to get vaccinated.
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