Experts Give Advice for Safe Holiday Travel

    23 November 2021

    As people prepare to visit family and friends during the holiday season, some might be wondering whether it is safe to travel during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    Experts and public health officials say it is currently safe for many people to travel. But they continue to urge everyone to carefully follow proven safety measures to limit virus spread.

    In its latest safety guidelines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges people who are not fully vaccinated to delay travel during the holiday season.

    Unvaccinated people who do not travel should wear well-fitting face masks while attending holiday events taking place in indoor settings, the CDC says. It also says that even fully vaccinated individuals should wear face coverings in indoor settings in communities known to have high infection rates.

    Travelers walk through O'Hare International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
    Travelers walk through O'Hare International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

    Unvaccinated people who decide to travel should get a COVID-19 test one to three days before travel and three to five days after returning.

    The coronavirus coordinator for the White House, Jeff Zients, says about 59 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Children ages 5 to 11 were approved for the vaccine earlier this month. As of last week, 2.6 million children had gotten their first of two shots, Zients said. That is about 10 percent of children eligible to get vaccinated.

    Dr. Keith Armitage is an infectious disease expert at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He told The Associated Press that all travelers should avoid indoor events with unmasked crowds.

    "The Delta variant has really brought us back to an earlier time in the pandemic," Armitage said.

    There is no requirement for COVID-19 vaccination or testing for Americans flying within the country. But the CDC says all travelers must still wear masks on trains, planes and in other indoor public transportation areas.

    Armitage said hotels do not present a large risk for vaccinated individuals as long as they wear masks around people they do not know. He noted that family gatherings with unvaccinated people can be more problematic, especially for those who are older or have health problems.

    Health experts suggest looking at the case levels and masking rules in the places people plan to visit before they travel.

    Many Americans already started their holiday travel plans last week. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said last Friday, November 19, was the single busiest air travel day since March 2020. The agency said it processed 2.24 million travelers on that day.

    Travel group AAA predicts 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, which falls on November 25. This is up 13 percent from 2020. AAA says about 48.3 million Thanksgiving travelers are expected to go by car. That is up from 47.1 million last year, but still below 2019's 49.9 million.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English, with additional information from the CDC. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    mask – n. something that covers part or all of the face

    eligible – adj. qualified to take part in a program or activity