Or how to travel safely despite looser travel restrictions
It’s that time of year again. With so much pent-up demand and decreasing numbers of new Coronavirus infections, there’s bound to be an uptick in travel for traditional Easter/Passover and spring break holidays. And with local jurisdictions in states like Texas and Mississippi effectively pulling back all mask mandates and opening businesses 100%, there will surely be a run on trips to the beach, the pool, bars, and nightclubs.
While I do not condone participation in any of these activities, I confess I will soon step out beyond my comfort zone to travel to Florida. Granted, I have had my first Covid vaccine and will adhere to double-masking, social distancing, and excessive hand-washing rituals. I don’t plan to dine indoors, perch on a barstool or attend a pool party any time soon.
My reasons for traveling during this peak period may be different than most. Sure, I’m anxious to escape the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing in greater NYC. And like most everyone, I need a change of scenery, an escape. But unlike revelers hoping to party while catching some rays, I am anxious to pay a meaningful visit to my aging mother, who has essentially endured this pandemic alone.
I might have waited for a second Moderna dose before jetting down to the sunshine state, but my son and fiance will be there for part of the time. Josh is excited for Jill to meet his Mima, and we are all excited with the prospect of them celebrating their nuptials in Miami so that Mima may attend. We will explore wedding venue options, conjure up a Passover seder, and install technology that will enable Mima to better keep in touch with all of us.
Test, test, test
While Mom is fully vaccinated, and I will be partially, Josh and Jill must absolutely get tested prior to departure from California. With so many uncertainties still surrounding the transmission of the virus even after vaccination, we are taking precautions, as I hope all travelers will. There are countless testing sites available all over the country, so there is no excuse NOT to be tested. For a comprehensive list of rapid and PCR testing sites for travel, click here.
Avoid the hotspots
Some destinations are clearly still not trending as well as others in terms of infections, deaths and hospitalization rates, while others are reacting to political pressures despite federal guidelines.
In my view, I would NOT travel to Texas, where Governor Abbott announced the opening of 100% of businesses effective immediately while ending the mask mandate as of March 10. This in spite of CDC officials’ warnings that these actions are still premature. I’d also avoid Biloxi (not that it was on my list of go-to’s), as well as some southwest counties of Arizona and California, which are still reporting more than 5,000 cases per week. Cases in New York and New Jersey remain persistently high. Some states, like California, have websites that provide detailed restrictions by county.
If an international trip is on your mind, Curacao and Antigua have been identified as hot spots in the Caribbean, and travel to the region, in general, is being discouraged. Brazil is absolutely out of the question, with a more contagious variant contributing to record-breaking infections there. Canadian borders remain closed, and visits to the UK and Europe may require you to show proof of negative testing or vaccinations upon entry, in addition to quarantining. You may also want to check out the CDC’s most recent travel statement for international travel.
At the risk of proselytizing, whether or not you choose to travel, or to celebrate the Easter or Passover holidays with family and friends, it is important to NOT let your guard down. Remember the spikes from Christmastime travel and get-togethers? They were enough to send us all back to our respective holes. Now, with the approval and distribution of three vaccines, testing rates have fallen, and people seem to be reverting to pre-pandemic behavior. Not to mention efforts by some overly enthusiastic officials too impatient to allow national directives to impact our collective recovery once and for all.
- Please, WEAR A MASK, if not two! To prevent infection and spread of new Coronavirus variants, two masks are now recommended when spending time around others, in a taxi, on a train, or plane.
- Don’t patronize crowded restaurants and bars. This seems like a no-brainer until friends and family send you photos of bar scenes seemingly from the past. My preference, still, is to dine only outdoors (weather permitting), or simply to order take-out.
- Get a vaccine, any vaccine! While there may still be barriers to getting one, President Biden announced plans to distribute vaccines to all that want them by the end of May! This is great news!