As Massachusetts continues to reopen, and we approach July Fourth weekend, summer travel is on our minds. But how do you do that, safely, during a pandemic?
We ask two health experts: Dr. Lin Chen, the Director of the Travel Medicine Center at Mount Auburn Hospital, president of the International Society of Travel Medicine, and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Also, we hear from Elizabeth Scott, Associate Dean and Professor of Biology at Simmons University. She is the co-director and founder of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health In Home and Community.
On how best to manage public restroom use on trips:
Professor Elizabeth Scott: Firstly, it's very important to, I think, minimize your time in the restroom. So be efficient and get out of there pretty quickly. I would recommend sanitizing your hands on the way in as well as on the way out. That way you don't actually add any contamination, yourself, to the environment. Wear a mask. Do a thorough 20-second hand wash, and use a paper towel, preferably, to dry your hands. And then use a paper towel to actually exit the facility and sanitize your hands on the way out.
I'd also say that washrooms or restrooms are not the place to be using cell phones and hanging out anymore. So I think being efficient and getting out of there is the thing to do.
On the safety of traveling abroad:
Dr. Lin Chen: So traveling abroad this summer is quite complicated. To start, we want to think about whether you have any increased risk when it comes to COVID - in terms of getting severe disease or a fatal disease, a critical disease.
There are a number of health problems and ... older age is a concern. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, ...underlying respiratory disease, those all potentially can increase a traveler's risk for severe disease from COVID. So think about that and then consider whether you would tolerate coming down with COVID... and would you accept coming down with a disease like COVID...in another country?
...So basically it's your threshold for the risk and your risk tolerance. How important is it to travel at this time versus postponing it a bit until the situation with COVID is a bit clearer.
On hotels or using rentals:
Professor Elizabeth Scott: There are questions to ask if you're renting or going into a hotel. Things like asking the place you're going to, ..."When we're people last there?" Many Airbnbs are talking about a three-day buffer now between rentals to give time. We know that the virus potentially can survive for up to 72 hours on inanimate surfaces. I think to give three days is a very safe period of time between rentals.
So, you know, what's the buffer? Since anyone was last there? How is the place being cleaned and disinfected? These are things you want to know about. ...Before you get there [you want to think about] is there room there to safely quarantine someone, in your family bubble, if they were to go down with symptoms? Can you separate them out? So those are important things to think about before you even get there. And then there are some things you can do when you actually arrive on site. You want to wear a mask when you arrive. I would recommend opening up all the doors and windows so that you have good air flow through the indoor environment.
And then everybody who's in that bubble, in that space — now you become one family unit in that bubble — and you have to make some commitment to each other that you're going to now keep the bubble closed.
This article was originally published on June 23, 2020.
This segment aired on June 23, 2020.