How to travel responsibly on vacation amid the Omicron wave

How to travel responsibly on vacation amid the Omicron wave

Taylor Allen wanted to be a responsible traveler, but she found it difficult.

Late last week, at least seven people Ms. Allen knew in Brooklyn posted on Instagram that they had tested positive for the coronavirus. She hadn’t seen any of them in person. But after developing a severe headache and runny nose on Friday, she canceled her flight on Saturday morning to Jacksonville, Florida, where she wanted to see her parents and grandparents.

Two home tests – a Friday and a Saturday – were negative. But Ms. Allen, 22, who is fully vaccinated but not yet refreshed, wanted more official security before rescheduling her trip. On Sunday evening, long after her scheduled appointment at an emergency clinic in Crown Heights, a staff member told her and the 30 or so other people waiting for tests in the bitter cold that they would have to come back at 8 a.m.

“I really don’t want to put anyone in danger,” said Ms. Allen, who left the clinic to return the next day.

Even if the number of coronavirus cases is skyrocketing in some parts of the country, mainly driven by the Omicron variant, the onslaught on vacation trips seems unstoppable. On Friday, Los Angeles International Airport reported the busiest day since early 2020, and on Sunday 2.1 million people passed airports in the United States, almost twice as many as there were at that time last year.

For those determined to stick to their travel plans, figuring out how to do so responsibly has never been more confusing. Part of the problem is that tests have been difficult to get on time, especially in badly hit cities like New York. Another major challenge is that many people plan to live in a home with fully vaccinated friends and family. Now they are learning that vaccinations are not a guarantee that they will not infect each other. So what can travelers do?

Only one in six Americans has had a booster vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fully vaccinated people without a booster are at least twice as likely to test positive as people who received a booster.

If you’re looking to travel in the coming weeks and months and are already fully vaccinated, one of the best ways to be a responsible traveler is to get a booster vaccination, said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

In terms of timing, the data shows that the optimal immune response occurs about two weeks after the booster, according to Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York. But many will see some protection within a few days, other experts noted, so a third vaccination today might still be beneficial for those traveling over the holidays.

In deciding what to account for when it comes to vacation travel, Kelly Hills, co-founder of Rogue Bioethics, a Boston consulting firm, advises thinking about “moral harm” and asking if you are mentally prepared for the consequences of being a vulnerable person infect .

That doesn’t have to result in plans being canceled, but it can encourage you to wear an N95 instead of a homemade mask on the plane or take a test, though it’s a chore. If you are exposed to many people in the days leading up to your trip, you may also want to pay extra to book a separate house or motel room instead of staying with family or friends.

“‘I don’t want to be a spreader’ – that should be the motto today,” said Leonard J. Marcus, co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and director of an in-flight public health initiative.

Dr. Marcus said while he is not aware of any data suggesting children on airplanes are likely to become infected, he advises parents not to fly with unvaccinated children – if possible – until more is known about Omicron.

“If it were my grandchildren, I would postpone it,” he said. If someone wears a proper mask on the plane, the risk of infection should generally be low because the ventilation system is so good, he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease officer, told CNBC that having his adult children fly over to see him over the holidays makes him feel safe. He also noted that they were vaccinated.

Testing in many parts of the country is currently a challenge.

“On a scale of one to 10, it’s a 10,” said Mary Mathurin, 51, outside a proving ground in Brooklyn on Sunday night. While she waited for her name to be called, her cell phone played music on hold from a call to another facility that had sent her the PCR results a few days earlier. The call was dropped after about 70 minutes. A few minutes later, a nursing assistant at the Brooklyn location informed her that the location could not accept her. She was due to fly to St. Lucia the next morning and wasn’t sure what to do.

Many pharmacies and online retailers have sold out the home tests. The White House plans to provide 500 million free home tests, but that won’t happen until January. For those who manage to get a kit, use it as soon as possible before your travel date, several experts said.

“The closer you are to the event, the better and more accurate it will be,” said Dr. Lin H. Chen, Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Mount Auburn Hospital Travel Medicine Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dr. Chen suggested that an antigen test be performed at home on the day of the meeting. (If a person tests positive at any time, it is advisable not to go to the event and take a confirmatory PCR test.) If people are staying in the same house for long periods of time, it is advisable to do so throughout their stay carry out regular tests, Dr. Chen said. This is especially important if someone hasn’t been vaccinated, boosted, or has been exposed to someone who tests positive, other experts noted.

Ms. Hills, the bioethicist, said it was understandable that many people are confused about making public health decisions.

“We should get more guidance,” she said, noting that many state and federal agencies offer different advice.

At the Brooklyn test site, several travelers reiterated the point, complaining that health officials were not making what they believed to be responsible travel – getting tested before visiting family – any easier.

This frustration, according to some travelers, is compounded by the feeling that it is up to them to find out what is socially responsible and epidemiologically safe and then convince their family and friends of the policies they have come up with. A woman who refused to give her name because she didn’t want her family to identify her said she was no longer comfortable flying with her 2 and 3 year old children after learning about Thanksgiving that their own family members would fly even if they tested positive.

Instead of arguing with them about what is appropriate or worrying that the people sitting next to her will share her family’s approach – and infect them or their children, causing them to infect their father – she’ll stay home this Christmas

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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