Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's
Spring is arriving and Arizona is enjoying the last few months of cooler weather before summer arrives. Typically, around this time, many families plan fun getaway trips. However, as with many other traditions, COVID-19 has made parents have to pause and double think what will keep their family safe. While it’s true the winter surge in COVID-19 cases is finally dropping and the vaccine roll out continues to gain momentum, many popular travel destinations like California, Florida and Texas are still experiencing high levels of community spread. The following will help families determine if Spring Break travel plans are in their best interest and provide some helpful tips to keep their family safe if they’ve already committed to travel.
First, it’s important to note that while COVID-19 vaccines are now available to the most high-risk individuals (over 55 years of age and essential workers), it may not be until May or later when the rest of the population will have access to them. With an incredible amount of resources pouring in, vaccine trials with children are also underway with hopes of vaccines becoming available for this crucial population by end of the year. We’re also seeing new variants of COVID-19 here in the U.S. that are showing to be more transmissible or spread more easily to others. However, existing vaccines are proving effective in providing protection against these variants at this time. With this in mind, experts predict that although severe cases of COVID-19 and hospital surges will begin to subside, community spread will likely still be substantial in spring to summer.
Second, a safer approach for family travel might actually be to focus on either summer or holiday travel plans later in the year instead spring. As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to more of the general public over the next several months, it will still likely be in summer or fall before there is a dramatic decrease in community spread. Pushing those travel plans, even just a few months down the road, will likely not only be the safest option for families, but will also help continue to mitigate the spread to others.
If families are determined to travel this spring, there are some steps they can take to minimize the risk of COVID-19. Not all vacations carry the same risk factors. For example, traveling by car to a vacation rental home is much safer than flying to a busy hotel to spend the week at a crowded beach. The key is for families to think about number of close contacts they’ll likely have during their travel plans. The more contacts, the more likely one will encounter someone with COVID-19. In addition, families should think about incorporating the following travel tips to help reduce the risks they’ll face:
- Check the COVID-19 community spread rates of the locale you intend to visit. Locations with high rates of community spread will place families at a high risk of encountering COVID-19. If the intended destination has high rates of spread, families should be extra cautious when out in public and ensure masking and social distancing at all times.
- Try to travel by car if possible. While the airline industry has taken amazing steps in helping to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission (HEPA air filters, air exchange, electrostatic spraying), traveling by car will limit your contact with the public. In addition, the road trip experience can be a great way for older children to see new places. During any rest stops, remember to wear a cloth face covering or mask and wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Also, consider packing your own food and snacks.
- If you must fly: Try to look for direct flights that will limit the need to change planes and walk through busy airports. In addition, the shorter the flight the better as longer flights will increase your likelihood of infection. Keep your mask on for the entire flight and consider opting out of meals. Don't forget to bring disinfectant wipes to sanitize all the high-touch areas.
- Pack extra masks and hand sanitizers. Along with toothbrushes, diapers and the portable crib, be sure to tote along those important pandemic essentials. Pack at least two masks per child in case one is lost or being washed after use. When packing hand sanitizer, include a small dispenser that can be stored in a purse or backpack as well as a larger container for refills. Ensure that the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol for effectiveness.
COVID-19 has affected everyone and the last 12 months have been stressful for families. With many already having canceled their recent holiday plans, this decision to travel for spring will likely be an emotional one. The urge to jump in to a full fledge spring break travel might be tempting, but families should realize and consider the dangers of traveling during high community spread of COVID-19. If the vaccine rollout proceeds as scheduled, hopefully families will be able to resume their relaxing and fun travel plans soon.