Hide caption Travelers and TSA workers wear masks in the ticketing area at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport last Wednesday. Doctors recommend wearing a mask at all times on the plane and using hand sanitizer and wipes to clean your seating area. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN] Jay Janner Hide caption A sign requires masks in the ticketing area at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Doctors say that for any family flying to see loved ones, getting there and back poses the biggest risk of catching the virus. [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN] Jay Janner @raisingaustin
Thanksgiving travel week is upon us but coronavirus cases have surged in Texas and across the country and sapped much of that annual excitement.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued advice last week that couldn’t have come at a worse time for those hoping for holiday comfort from loved ones: Postpone travel and stay home to best protect yourself and others from getting or spreading the virus.
While some folks will defy that advice for their own reasons, others are compelled to travel because of colleges closing for winter break or as part of their job as essential workers. So here are a few tips to help you stay safe on that journey this week.
Travel by car if that’s an option . Make as few stops as possible, and when you do, wear your masks and use hand sanitizer. Avoid crowded indoor spaces like convenience stores and restaurants. Instead, use drive-thrus, pay for your gas outside, and use less-crowded rest stops for bathrooms.
If you are flying, maintain distance as much as possible. Wear your mask at all times on the plane and use hand sanitizer and wipes to clean your area. Dr. Stanley Spinner, vice president and chief medical officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics & Texas Children’s Urgent Care, recommends three-layer cloth masks and eye protection as well.
For the family, “getting there and back is the biggest risk area,” Spinner says.
Once you get to where you are going, rent a car instead of using a ride-hailing app. Wipe it down with sanitizing wipes before driving it.
If you are visiting family, know what levels of precautions they have taken and how they have interacted with people during the pandemic.
Staying at a hotel might actually be better. You can minimize the chances of spread and socially distance from other people, unlike staying at a relative’s house. Rooms are also cleaned between guests and, because of vacancies, often there is a time lag between booking guests in each room.
“If you stay at a family’s house, you’re going to have a large group of people congregating for a long time,” says Dr. Brian Metzger, medical director of infectious diseases at St. David’s Medical Center.
“The safest thing to do is to not have these gatherings,” he says. “I know it’s terrible, and we want to go on with our lives as best we can. … It seems like it’s best to sit this one out.”
“Kids coming home from college is the biggest infection risk,” says Dr. Renee Higgerson, medical director for pediatric critical care at St. David’s Children’s Hospital.
Some colleges have adjusted the schedule to end in-person classes at Thanksgiving to avoid college kids coming home at Thanksgiving, then back to college for exams, and then back home for Christmas. It limits the community transfer of germs to one event instead of three events.
Know your college’s infection rates to assess what the risk might be. Many schools have online dashboards you can check.
Students should come home by car instead of by plane to reduce their risk. If they do need to take a […]