Mayo Clinic doctors: What you need to know before traveling during COVID

Jun 24, 2021, 4:45 AM | Updated: 9:48 am
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — As vaccination rates improve and COVID-19 cases drop statewide, more Arizonans may be looking to travel this summer.

But before packing their suitcases, several Mayo Clinic doctors have some travel recommendations.

“The way to most safely travel is to be fully immunized,” Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, said during a press call with reporters Wednesday. “I can’t over-push that enough.”

Poland said getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will protect travelers from the COVID-19 variants that are emerging, including the Delta variant. He noted the Delta variant now accounts for about 20% of new COVID-19 cases.

“If you are unvaccinated, I would recommend getting vaccinated,” he said. “If that’s not an option for you, then wearing a proper mask properly would be the next best thing to do.”

He also recommended travelers, vaccinated or not, wear a mask when they’re in crowded indoor venues.

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that fully vaccinated people who travel within the United States don’t have to get tested or self-quarantine. But mask-wearing on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation is still required even for those fully vaccinated.

Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious disease specialist, said families with children under 12 years old who still aren’t eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine may need to make different travel plans.

“In those situations, we are recommending that children continue to follow all of the usual infection prevention precautions, including wearing a mask especially in indoor or crowded public places,” Rajapakse said.

She recommended families with children who can’t get vaccinated consider vacations that involve outdoor activities.

“We know the virus does not spread well outdoors and so activities like camping or hiking, for example, with children who are unvaccinated might be a nice option for this summer,” she said.

Rajapakse added families planning to travel outside the U.S. should also understand “what is going on with COVID-19 in those countries.”

“I definitely recommend against traveling, especially with unvaccinated children, to any area that’s seeing a lot of virus transmission or large outbreaks,” she said. “We’ve been fortunate in the United States now to have vaccine quite widely available to us, but that’s not the case in every international destination.”

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Mayo Clinic doctors: What you need to know before traveling during COVID