The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared vaccinated Americans to travel again, but some immunized travelers remain on the fence about making summer plans.
Is it finally safe to fly? What about visiting unvaccinated relatives or traveling with young children?
CNBC Global Traveler asked medical professionals — all of whom are involved in treating or researching Covid-19 — to share their travel plans this summer. Here are their responses, in their words.
Summer travel is ‘unlikely’
“It’s unlikely I’ll be traveling this summer … I’m concerned that the proliferation of variants, existing or new, is setting the stage for a replay of last summer’s ebb and flow Covid-19 surge pattern. I’m also concerned that vaccine hesitancy … or supply and access issues will limit our ability to reach herd immunity in the short term.”
“We only have to look as far as recent Covid-19 surges in countries like Canada or states like Michigan to see how vaccine supply issues and variant spread can lead to a dangerous surge with wide impact.”
There’s nothing wrong with a wait and see approach right now.
Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine
“[My kids] are desperate to get out of the house and into a theme park this summer but that’s just not in our cards right now. I still think that there will be relatively safe ways to travel this summer, and that there’s nothing wrong with a wait and see approach right now.”
“Fully vaccinating, moving our bubble with us, and maintaining the infection control measures that have kept us safe so far, even if not mandated, would be part of the plan.”
—Mark Cameron, epidemiologist and associate professor at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine
Only from one home to the other — by car
“I am not traveling this summer, except to travel by car from our place in New York City to our home in the country. Under normal circumstances, we would travel extensively, including abroad. But this year, we will spend most of our time in our country home, since it is much easier to avoid close contact than it is in the city or when traveling afar.”
“When we do have to come into the city, we will do so by car. And when we arrive, we will avoid public transit, crowded venues and indoor activities.”
This is not yet the time to let up….
President, Access Health International
“Being vaccinated didn’t change my behavior or my summer travel plans. There are new variants … emerging with regularity, and the vaccines will not be equally effective against them all. Because of this, I and all those in my immediate family are taking the same precautions after vaccination as we did before we were vaccinated. That includes avoiding unnecessary travel.”
“When we do need to go into public places, like to the post office or the grocery store, we wear N95 masks and a face shield, a combination that has proven effective even in indoor healthcare settings of significantly cutting down the risk of infection.”
“If some members of our extended family are required to travel over the summer, we’ll be asking them not to visit us until at least two weeks post travel — that includes the adults that are vaccinated and the children who are not.”
“This is not yet the time to let up on the public health measures that can help us control the pandemic.”
—William Haseltine, former professor at Harvard Medical School and current president of Access Health International; author of “Variants! The Shape-Shifting Challenge of COVID-19”
Yes, but in the same region
“The family trip we are taking this summer will be semi-local. We plan to get to the Jersey Shore [to rent] an efficiency apartment … enjoy the hiking, the beach and the pool and will bring our food with us. We will be driving so that we can easily bring everything.”
Dr. Sharon Nachman said a consideration for her family’s summer travel plans to the Jersey Shore was “how easily we could get back in case of an emergency.”
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“By bringing our own food, we cut down on the need to go to areas that may be crowded or unsafe. By looking at locations that had a variety of outdoor activities, we can get the fresh air and sunshine we have been missing for the past several months.”
“[My children] have all been vaccinated, but our grandkids have not been. With careful planning, we plan to visit and play with them this summer.”
—Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the pediatric infectious disease division at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital
Travel plans are undecided
“I do not have concrete plans yet. I live in California, and I may decide to visit the local destinations within driving distance with my husband for a few days just for a break. We may also decide to fly to Hawaii. Hawaii requires testing prior to departure and on arrival. My husband and I are well adults and are both vaccinated now, and that is in part why we are comfortable with the idea of considering domestic travel at this point. We will definitely be masking and wearing eye protection during travel.”
For longer flights, Dr. Supriya Narasimhan said she would consider booking a business class ticket because “the empty middle seat doesn’t exist anymore, flight operators are flying fewer trips, and many are fairly full.”
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“International travel is a whole different consideration. We would like to visit family in India in the summer because we have not seen them for the last 18 months, but India is experiencing a surge. … people do not reliably mask on flights and the era of empty middle seats is [in the] past, so contracting Covid during travel is a very real risk, made more complex by emergence of new variants.”
“In my institution’s experience, post-vaccination Covid is rare, and we have yet to see a severe case post vaccination. I trust in our vaccines, but I will do my part to decrease my risk even further by masking diligently when I am around others.”
—Dr. Supriya Narasimhan, chief of infectious diseases at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
Definitely traveling, but only domestically
“My wife and I will be traveling by plane to visit relatives on the East Coast. We will be wearing masks and be conscious of maintaining social distance throughout the terminal as well as while on board.”
“Both my wife and I are fully vaccinated as are the family we will be visiting. The vaccine roll-out and the impact on state-mandated pre- and post-travel testing and post-travel quarantines [were] crucial to our plans. If there had still been quarantine requirements, we would have delayed traveling until these were lifted — not due to fears of infection but merely due to the practical implications.”
Dr. Charles Bailey said he plans to clean surfaces on his flight, including seat arms and controls, tray table and seat pocket “lip.”
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“If our travel plans had included young children who had not yet been fully vaccinated, we would have considered the CDC recommendation for pre- and post-travel testing as well as possible implications of a post-travel quarantine period in regard to return-to-school dates. Ascertaining any requirement or expectation by the schools they would be returning to in the fall would have been a reasonable idea as well.”
—Dr. Charles Bailey, medical director for infection prevention at Providence St. Joseph Hospital and Providence Mission Hospital
Going abroad this summer
“Similar to many Americans, my family also has plans to travel this summer. This summer, four of our family members would like to travel to Lima, Peru, and take a journey to discover the many pleasures of this country, including the historical Machu Picchu. Seventy-two hours before boarding the airplane we will get a PCR Covid-19 test to protect ourselves and others.”
“Airport and mass transit is expected to be more congested than in the last year. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all travelers are vaccinated. As healthcare providers, my wife and I are both fully vaccinated, and our [adult] children will be vaccinated before our travel activities.”
“It is important before making travel arrangements to any destination that you research … the infectivity rate … should be less than 5%.”
“Data can rapidly change, and it is important to follow current local authorities’ guidelines and recommendations.”
—Dr. Ramon Tallaj, chairman of the board at New York’s Somos Community Care
Editor’s note: Peru is currently under a Level 4 Covid travel advisory by the CDC. According to the CDC’s website, travelers should avoid travel to Peru.