With coronavirus cases rising in popular vacation spots, including the Carolinas and Florida, with the highest number of new cases in a day on Sunday (15,300), should people be going on vacation?
Yes, with the same precautions you would be taking if you were home, said Dr. Keith Armitage, medical director of the University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health in Cleveland. Before COVID-19, the travel center mainly assisted people traveling internationally to ensure they were prepared (such as vaccines) for travel.
The Beacon Journal asked Armitage his advice about summer travel plans, amidst rising COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Q: As cases are spiking, should people be taking their summer vacations?
A: Yes. But it's becoming increasingly clear that the real risk of contracting coronavirus is being indoors with strangers unmasked. Whether you go to a bar or restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, versus a bar or restaurant in the Carolinas or Florida, there's a real risk. Right now the risk is going to be higher in the Carolinas or Florida, but the risk is still high enough in Cleveland.
The safest vacation would be to drive someplace, stay in a facility where you're not aggregated with too many people and do outdoor activities and don't go indoors to restaurants or bars. Being outdoors has a much lower risk, unless you're on a packed outdoor restaurant deck or bar. Indoors, you have these super spreader events where one person infects 50 to 100 people.
I think people can enjoy hiking, swimming, boating, camping or whatever outdoor activities and sightseeing. It's being indoors with unmasked strangers that people have to avoid.
Q: If you're outdoors, do you still need to make sure you are social distancing? I'll give an example. I heard of a friend group of several families who rented boats and were mixed on the boats.
A: I would call that medium risk. Anytime you bring new people into your core group or if you're meeting with four families, there's a chance one of those people in the four families is asymptomatic. The risk is lower outdoors, but it would be better to do it with one family. If four families were together and eat indoors, you could have a situation where everyone gets infected. I think it's less likely if they were outdoors sharing a boat. The safest thing is to do as much social distancing as possible.
Q: When a family travels by car to their vacation destination, what risks are there along the way, like public bathrooms?