Is traveling safe during the pandemic this holiday season?
It depends. It may be safe if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but officials say people who haven’t received the shots should delay travel.
Regardless of their vaccination status, all travelers should continue to take precautions, such as avoiding unmasked indoor crowds, says Dr. Keith Armitage, an infectious disease expert at Case Western Reserve University.
“The delta variant really took us back to an earlier time in the pandemic,” he says.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says not to travel if you are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19 and your period of isolation has not yet ended, even if you are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated people who decide to travel should take a COVID-19 test one to three days before travel and three to five days after returning.
All travelers should always wear masks on trains, planes and other indoor public transportation areas, the agency says.
Airlines say airplane cabins are low risk because they have good airflow and filtration. However, there are no vaccination or testing requirements before domestic flights, and passengers can remove their face masks while eating or drinking.
Hotels aren’t risky for vaccinated people as long as they wear masks around strangers, Armitage says. More tense are family gatherings with unvaccinated people, especially for those who are older or have health problems.
Health experts suggest reviewing case levels and masking rules in the location you are visiting before travelling.