With fewer cases overall and an increased number of vaccinations, this holiday season is shaping up to be better than years before. However, whether your loved one is traveling by train or by car to celebrate the holidays, some easy precautions can help you and the older adults in your life stay safe and provide you both with some peace of mind.
It’s always important to understand your risk of COVID. First, travelers should check the U.S. State Department website to understand advisories and reports on safety conditions for traveling internationally and within the United States. Furthermore, Mayo Clinic offers a great website that tracks COVID cases and forecasts hot spots. Understanding the risk of your holiday destination helps inform whether you need to take extra precautions.
Evaluate alternate modes of transportation
Though travelers are generally packed like sardines, most experts consider planes as one of the safer modes of travel due to how air circulates and is filtered during the flight. The risk, however, lies mostly in the time waiting in security lines and waiting in crowded airports.
Flying on a less-popular day or during off hours can reduce the amount of crowds. Of course, choosing to drive may be a better choice to avoid COVID. Likewise, ride shares or taxis may be better options than taking a crowded train or subway.
Make a travel kit
Whether traveling by plane, train or automobile, a small personal hygiene kit can help you and your loved one keep germs away. The kit should contain an extra disposable and fabric mask, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Air passengers are allowed to bring liquid hand sanitizer in containers up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags.
Consider double masking
Masks are required on all commercial flights, but an ill-fitting mask does little to protect you or the people around you. Wearing a surgical mask – or, even better, a KN95 mask – under a fabric mask can help in areas where social distancing is unlikely or impossible. If you can, avoid taking your mask off to eat or drink on the plane.
Hands to yourself
Though COVID is largely airborne, avoiding high-touch areas is never a bad idea. Encourage your loved one to avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth, and ensure they’re washing their hands periodically with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use a sanitizing wipe to clean high-touch areas of airplanes, hotel rooms, rental cars and ride shares.
Seniors are more at risk for serious illness from COVID, so it’s a shared responsibility to keep your loved one safe during holiday gatherings. The CDC recommends that all individuals ages 5 and older are vaccinated to decrease the spread of COVID, and individuals who are not fully vaccinated should ideally wear a mask over their nose and mouth in an indoor setting.
These general ground rules are best communicated prior to the gathering to ensure people understand expectations. As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your loved one is especially high-risk, friends and family members attending the celebration can take an at-home COVID test to ensure they’re not infected with the virus.
Consider eating al fresco
If you’re fortunate to celebrate the holidays in a more temperate climate, an outdoor celebration can be just as joyful as an indoor gathering with much less of a chance of spreading COVID.
Though the pandemic continues to complicate holiday travel and celebrations, being prepared and taking precautions can ensure that this holiday is free from COVID and your loved ones are safe.