March 22 is the beginning of Spring Break here in Northwest Arkansas. The question is, should you plan to travel during the pandemic? If not, how can you make sure you and your family enjoy the break?
The CDC does not recommend travel at this time. They suggest that you skip spring break travel this year and plan for a fun, socially distanced excursion closer to home.
One issue we may not have to consider in Northwest Arkansas is what level of danger our destination represents. Arkansas is at the highest level of danger right now, so we do not have to worry about visiting a more dangerous region than our own.
If your college student wants to hit Padre Island, it’s worth discussing safer alternatives or travel safety during the pandemic.
Watch out for these COVID-19 myths.
- As long as you’re vaccinated, you can travel safely. FALSE: While the vaccine will protect you from COVID-19, it is not yet known how thoroughly it protects people you meet and your ability to spread the virus. The CDC warns against travel during spring break as infection rates are still high. If you insist on traveling, plan to give yourself 14 days after your last vaccination dose to be sure you have developed an immunity. You must also continue to practice COVID-19 recommended restrictions like wearing a mask and staying 6′ away from people not in your household.
- Visiting family is safe. FALSE: The reason family groups are so often excepted in conversations about COVID-19 safety is that your family may be in the same household. If your household is all practicing the same safety measures — as long as you don’t bring any new people into the household — you can feel sure you are doing your best to not infect one another. That’s not the situation with your cousins in another state, however much you love them. There is nothing about sharing DNA that makes you less likely to be infected or to infect another person. If your grandparents have taken the vaccine, it is now safer for them to visit their family and those grandchildren they have missed. However, the vaccinated person may still be able to spread the virus to anyone that is not vaccinated. Everyone should still wear masks, wash hands often, and stay six feet apart.
- Hot weather and sun prevent COVID-19. FALSE: You might think that a trip to a sunny climate will not lead to infection, because sunshine kills the virus. This is not true. COVID-19 is not prevented or cured by sunshine. There are also rumors that spicy food and alcohol can prevent or cure the coronavirus. These stories are also false.
If you are determined to travel
Many of our friends and neighbors will feel that they must travel. We understand this feeling.
- Follow the usual recommendations. Wear a mask, maintain social distance, wash your hands frequently, and clean surfaces you touch often. Avoid touching your face. These recommendations will help keep you safe wherever you are. Be sure to follow these guidelines even if you are visiting friends or family. Some college students may not be able to avoid travel. However, students who have been away from their families can easily carry the virus home with them.
- Check regulations at your destination. Padre Island, for example, has a web page explaining what they’re doing to keep visitors safe. Gatherings are restricted to 10 people and social distancing is required on the beaches. Puerto Rico’s requirements are more stringent. Visitors who arrive without a negative test result and other required paperwork will have to quarantine at their own expense — probably longer than their Spring Break.
- Make sure social distancing is possible. When you think about your destination, consider the amount of crowding it normally has during spring break. Travel is not expected to be back at pre-pandemic levels, but there will be travelers. Consider the activities you will enjoy. Maybe hiking or hanging out in an AirBnB will be better choices for 2021 than clubbing or trying to meet new people.
- Consider travel insurance. Try to choose hotels and transportation that will be refundable if you have to cancel your plans. It’s good to have a Plan B, too — something you and your family will enjoy if your trip is canceled. Think about a staycation, with visits to the many beautiful and exciting outdoor destinations Northwest Arkansas has to offer.
This information should help you make the best decision for your family at this time. Visit the CDC website for more information on travel requirements and risk comparison of activities for Spring Break. Stay safe, stay strong! Keep wearing a mask, watching your distance, and washing your hands.