COVID-19 is real, poses a dangerous risk, and continues to spread throughout the country. Kaiser Permanente’s infectious disease experts and clinicians agree that staying home for the holidays — not traveling and not gathering — is the best way to protect yourself and those you love.
That means this year’s holiday season will look and feel very different. Normally considered the busiest time of year for traveling and gathering with family and friends, many people are revamping their traditional holiday plans because travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19.
“One can be a carrier, or think early symptoms are just a cold,” said Paul Thottingal, MD, national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente. “A test before traveling only confirms your negative status at the time of the test and doesn’t prevent you from getting — and spreading — the disease while traveling.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, travelers face a higher risk of being exposed to the virus at airports, bus and train stations, and rest stops — all places where it can be difficult to physically distance.
You may feel fine and not have any symptoms, but you and your travel companions, including children, can still spread COVID-19 to other people for at least 14 days after you were exposed to the virus.
Despite the call for caution, traveling may be unavoidable. If you still plan on traveling and gathering during the holidays, remember to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 by continuing to follow safety protocols — wear your mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands frequently.
It’s also important to understand if your home state or destination has restrictions or requirements for travelers. For example, Hawaii requires a negative COVID-19 test be taken within 72 hours of arrival from all inbound travelers to Oahu, and if your final destination is one of the islands outside of Oahu, there may be additional testing requirements. California, Oregon, and Washington have recently issued updated travel guidance as well. Be sure to check for any state or local travel restrictions, and quarantine and testing recommendations before you leave home, and be aware: they could change during your travel.
Don’t travel or gather if you’re sick, with someone who is sick, or if you’ve been around someone with COVID-19 in the 14 days before your planned departure date.
And if you must travel, make sure you understand how to get care while you’re away. You never know what might come up when you’re away from home, so it’s important to be prepared and have a plan.
“It’s understandable that people have developed fatigue dealing with the complexities and confusion regarding this disease and want to put this behind them,” Dr. Thottingal said, “but we are still very much in a pandemic. We’ve seen increases in cases after each major holiday. We have to keep up our guard.”
Get the facts about coronavirus testing at Kaiser Permanente and resources to keep yourself and your community healthy and strong during this pandemic. Together we can stop the spread of COVID-19.