I’m not afraid to admit when I’ve been wrong, folks. Several scientists I know and respect have called for social distancing to help prevent the spread of coronavirus strain Covid-19. Our new, improved plans for Spring Break include avoiding crowds and finding fun ways to encourage proper handwashing. That isn’t to say you should stay home, but you might want to rethink your plans. (Note: I am not a doctor, and what we know about this illness is constantly changing, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about a spring or summer vacation.)
This post has been updated as of 5-25-2020. At this point, everyone knows what social distancing is and we’ve learned new things about the coronavirus that significantly changed what life was like two months ago. I’m keeping the original text and will include it at the end of the post, but this middle part is for everyone who is feeling cramped up and wants to get outdoors NOW.
~Start of new info~
By the end of May, several states began reopening points of interest. President Trump put pressure on states and businesses to get back to work. Governors followed suit. But, this goes against recommendations by the CDC.
It’s important for travelers to understand there are transmission risks. COVID-19 infections are still rapidly spreading and people are still dying. The nice weather is tempting, but two members of our family still regularly work with the public. They have a higher chance of getting the illness and spreading it, so we have decided to hold off on travel for now to reduce the chances of transmitting COVID.
And it’s getting to me.
I’m not the most patient person, folks. To quote Modest Mouse, “This feels like clothes made out of wasps.” Or, you know, murder hornets. I want to be out there exploring! Learning. LIVING. But I also want to help keep people safe.
If you’re in a different situation and feel comfortable getting out and about, please follow these tips for social distancing during road trips:
1. Keep your hands away from your face! Scratching your eyes. Picking your nose. Picking your teeth. These are no good in public. Now you have even more incentive to do them in the bathroom after you wash your hands. Wearing a mask can help with this, but it also has additional benefits.
2. Wear a mask. Some protection is better than no protection, but you want something with multiple layers that covers your nose to your chin. Not to mention, if you accidentally cough at someone while you’re out and about, you’re not as at-risk for being punched in the face… or arrested on felony charges.
3. Keep your distance from people outside your household. Pictures have flooded the internet this weekend of mobs of people walking shoulder-to-shoulder in popular tourist destinations. It completely ignores the advice given by governors who are already taking unhealthy risks. Six feet is two standard sidewalk squares. If you can’t maintain that distance, don’t stop at an attraction.
4. Avoid enclosed spaces. A recent study showed that transmission rates inside meat packing plants and restaurants were higher because of the enclosed atmosphere and the way air droplets transmit the virus. What does that mean when you’re on the road? Take-out is safer than dining in. Crowded elevators, stairwells, smaller shops and even natural sites like caves could increase your chances for transmission.
5. Avoid noisy areas. Research has also shown a surprising link between noisy spaces and superspread. One person transmitting the virus to many other people is much more likely in areas where they will be yelling to be heard or singing or otherwise projecting their voices – and the particles that go along with them.
That still leaves plenty of places to explore and experiences to have. We are not advising that people without a reason stay inside their homes without ever seeing daylight. Unfortunately, because of the unique risks our family poses, we’re limiting our excursions for now.
However, those who want to get out and about have some other considerations as well.
Are States Allowing Travel?
Officially, the CDC continues to warn against all non-essential travel. Despite that, Memorial Day Weekend saw nearly the same amount of traffic at Spring Break 2019! We’ve still got roughly a week before we really see the effects.
And that’s the pill in the jam. Travel will spread the coronavirus. How much it spreads and who it spreads to depends on the people who travel and their behaviors after-the-fact.
If you take the additional steps to travel, please go the extra mile in protecting other people.
How Can You Safely Stay in Hotels at the Time of Covid-19?
The CDC’s guidelines for hotel stays seem quite similar to what frequent travelers did before the Covid outbreak. “Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces.” Wipe down doorknobs, door frames, toilet handles, remote controls and dresser tops.
Are Hotels Open in Every State?
No, and AirBnB style vacation rentals are even more restricted. In fact, four states are still requiring visitors go into quarantine for 14 days: Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont and Maine. (Your state may require you to quarantine for 14 days once you return home too!)
It’s imperative that you check health restrictions before heading into any area. Whether hotels are operating for non-essential travelers depends entirely on state shelter orders. Vacation rentals are still closed in many states, though June and July should see more options.
~End of new info~
What is Social Distancing?
Just like it sounds, “social distancing” means keeping your distance from other people. This is the reason museums like the Louvre are closed for now and why so many conferences are being postponed. When you stay away from crowds, you limit your exposure to germs. Just like vaccination and herd immunity helps communities from epidemics, social distancing helps prevent the spread of illness.
Does it stink that this is happening right when most kids have time out of school? Yes and no. Sometimes you have to focus on the positives, right? While Covid-19 might interrupt a few Spring Break getaways, for many of those travelers, that means they won’t be taking additional time off of work or school.
How to Handle Non-Refundable Reservations
One of my friends called me crying because their whole family has aonce-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris booked right now … with non-refundable tickets, rooms, activities, the works. She’d been so proud of herself for saving money and now looks to lose it all (because, of course, she didn’t get trip insurance). This site isn’t dedicated to air travel, but it’s important to mention a few things for people who are facing the same kind of circumstances:
- Non-refundable purchases can often be adjusted. You can’t usually cancel the sale and get your money back, but you can probably request future credit or pay a fee to make changes.
- Several airlines, hotels and other providers are offering no-fee cancellations, refunds and credits due to coronavirus risks. This also means that…
- Your provider might do the same if you take the time to ask.
- The payment method you used for your trip might offer travel coverage.
Increased Risks for the Elderly
The problem with a new virus is that people still have so much to learn. At the time of our last post on the coronavirus, the information didn’t seem so dire. The latest mortality rates for the elderly tell a different story. Even healthy people over 65, and especially those over age 80, have an 8 – 14 percent chance of succumbing to Covid-19. Again, that’s what we know right now. It might be different in a week or two, so be sure to talk to your doctor and do further research.
Our family decided it wasn’t worth the risk to take The Grandma into crowded places, but that is a choice you have to make for yourselves. Staying away from crowds will help you avoid germs of all kinds. Appropriate handwashing, the use of hand sanitizer with a high alcohol content and being mindful to keep your hands off your face will help you stay well.