How can you travel safely? WakeMed doctor discusses minimizing risk

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The CDC is expected to issue guidance later this week about what people can and can’t do once they’re fully vaccinated. That will include guidance about travel.   

Dr. Christopher Chao with WakeMed said there will still be some degree of risk associated with traveling.  

“While we can minimize risk of travel, it’s still not zero risk,” Chao said. 

When it comes to getting to your destination, he said the more people you come in contact with, the greater your chance of exposure.

“I think driving has some advantages in that you control your environment,” Chao said. “Now, when you get in a car, you still have to go to the gas station, you still have to eat, you still have to go to the restroom. So it’s not 100 percent contact-free, but you can control that environment, too.”

Of course, you can’t drive everywhere. Chao said he believes airlines have done a good job of minimizing risk.

“The way that the cabins are designed for airflow, it’s actually pretty good for preventing droplet transmission,” he said. “You are also not directly seated face-to-face with another traveler and everyone is required to wear a mask.”

Once you arrive at your destination, Chao said outdoor activities are generally safer than indoor activities. 

“I think the risk when you’re dealing with skiing, with running a race, is what you do before and after. That’s what people don’t really think about,” he said. “It’s after everyone crosses the finish line, they’re giving high-fives or hugging.

“After you ski, you go and hang out by the fireplace in the lodge. You go eat out with other people. That’s where the risk lies.”

What if the place you’re visiting has different rules when it comes to COVID-19?

Chao, who is fully vaccinated, said you should follow CDC recommendations and do what you can to keep everyone as safe as possible.

“We recently went to a part of the United States where there was no mask mandate,” he recalled. “I wore my mask because it’s the socially responsible thing to do. Number two, I’m minimizing the risk to others around me. I’m also minimizing risk to myself.”  

Chao said it’s also important to be flexible with any travel plans because you never know when an event could be canceled or travel restrictions put in place.   

Right now, the CDC still recommends you do not travel, but if you do have to make a trip, the agency has an extensive list of recommendations.

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