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To reduce COVID-19 exposure and spread, a number of colleges across the U.S. have amended their academic calendars to eliminate spring break, thereby reducing student travel and minimizing the potential for travel-related exposure to COVID-19. Nevertheless, after nearly a year of being cooped up, many people are growing frustrated and looking to travel.
With spring break approaching, Abinash Virk, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Infectious Diseases physician, and Lori Arndt, a Mayo Clinic Health System Infectious Diseases physician assistant, weigh in on whether people should consider traveling.
Lori and Dr. Virk remind people to continue to avoid travel to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others, even those who are vaccinated.
"The rollout of vaccines in the United States has given people confidence to travel for leisure. Vaccination efforts are underway in our communities, but the vaccination rates vary widely, so there is potential for exposure to COVID-19. We have a long way to go before we reach herd immunity," says Lori. "I encourage travelers to take precautions to reduce the transmission of the virus."
"A large number of people are, in fact, not protected, or could have what we call asymptomatic COVID-19 infection and be transmitting it to others around them," says Dr. Virk. "So as we start traveling, there's going to be an increased risk of exposure at airports, restaurants or hotels ― either you picking up COVID-19 or you giving it to somebody if people are not careful about masking and social distancing. We recommend not traveling if you can avoid it."
Another reason why people should be cautious about traveling for spring break has to do with the emergence of new coronavirus variants. COVID-19 variants, which originated from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, all have been documented in the U.S.
"We are still learning a lot more about these variants. We know some of these variants are more easily transmissible from one person to the other. Also, there is possibility that these new variants could cause additional hospitalizations or severity of illness," says Dr. Virk. "We need to be really careful to limit travel until we have more people vaccinated and until we know that the vaccine will actually prevent people from acquiring the variants that are around the world."
"When considering travel, trips with the highest interaction with others or large crowds pose the highest risk of transmission," says Lori. "Understanding your risk and making informed decisions helps to mitigate the spread."
Currently, there is no testing requirement for domestic travelers. All returning international travelers must have a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the U.S.
Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.