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Do your part for public health if you choose to travel for the holidays

Do your part for public health if you choose to travel for the holidays
Do your part for public health if you choose to travel for the holidays
Written by Harry S. Johnson

With tens of millions of Americans expected to travel for Thanksgiving next week despite spiking COVID-19 infection numbers nationwide, the U.S. Travel Association on Thursday released an update to its guidance for healthy and safe travel—along with a plea for everyone to closely heed recommended best practices if traveling.

At a Thursday press conference, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow discussed the relatively new challenge of “pandemic fatigue”—which is reportedly causing many Americans to lower their guard against the coronavirus because they are tired after eight long months of evolving restrictions and lifestyle adjustments.

“It is extremely important to not become complacent about our health and safety practices,” Dow said. “If we do, the longer this pandemic will go on.”

The fatigue phenomenon is partially apparent in the fact that strong numbers of Americans are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday despite the persistence of coronavirus. AAA Travel projects that up to 50 million Americans will take to the roads and skies for the November holiday.

With that in mind, U.S. Travel has updated the “Travel in the New Normal” health and safety guidance developed earlier this year in a collaboration between health and medical authorities and a broad array of business voices. The goal: keep travelers focused on their own practices that contribute to a safe environment for all—and demonstrate the travel industry’s commitment to the same. Accordingly, the new guidance outlines practices that should be embraced by both travelers and travel businesses alike.

“Public health is a shared responsibility that requires a phased and layered approach, and if you’re choosing to travel, you have a major role to play,” said Dow. “First and foremost: wear a mask in public spaces. That needs to be universal at this point.”

Dow emphasized that the need to stay conscientious about health and safety applies to all travel environments—not just air travel. This is especially true because 95% of Thanksgiving trips are expected to be by car this year, according to AAA—an increase from 90% last year.

“The same best practices apply in every phase of travel,” said Dow. “If you’re in an airport, at a rest stop, or entering a restaurant, or if you’re staying in a hotel, please wear a mask in public spaces, without exception.”

Updates to the “Travel in the New Normal” guidance reflect evidence gathered about COVID-19 since the document was first released in May—primarily, that transmission is mostly airborne, and that a greater focus on transmission barriers is therefore essential.

Beyond the strong emphasis on mask-wearing, other practical advice for travelers in the updated guidance includes:

  • Decide if you can travel safely. Do not travel if you are sick or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Get an annual flu vaccine.
  • Before travel, check information about your destination. Check health departments for local requirements and up-to-date travel information about your destination.
  • Practice physical distancing. Stay six feet from those who do not live with you, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wash your hands frequently. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.