The COVID-19 pandemic still poses a health risk, especially with the new Omicron variant, but it’s not stopping people from getting to Grandma’s house this year. AAA is predicting holiday travel will be within 5% of pre-pandemic levels, so Mercy Health – Springfield and Mercy Health – Urbana are offering advice on ways to keep you and your family safe on the go.
“Even though there are no vaccine mandates for travel within the United States, it is highly recommended people receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, including the booster shot if eligible,” said Dr. Jessica El-Asmar, a physician from Mercy Health – Urbana Internal Medicine.
Both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot are among the best methods of protecting yourself and your loved ones this holiday season.
“Vaccinations have shown to offer protection against severe illness, complications, and death in a large number of people, as well as being effective in reducing the risk of getting the virus,” she said.
Regardless of your vaccination status, testing can be an important tool before you go, especially if the family members you plan to see include young children, the elderly, or the immunocompromised. While you may be eager to share more quality time with loved ones, up to 20% of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and you don’t want to share those germs.
Testing may also be a good idea on the return trip home, especially if you’ve spent time in large gatherings. Keep in mind, if you’re coming back from overseas it’s not optional.
“If you are traveling back to the United States by air, you are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or rapid antigen test) no more than 1 day before departure. Regardless of vaccination status or citizenship, you must show proof of a negative result before boarding your flight,” El-Asmar said.
Paying attention to what you’re packing can also help you avoid some major headaches. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and extra masks are a must, but you should also consider packing a list of any allergies, medical conditions, and medications in case of a health emergency. Remembering those medications is also key.
“Plan to pack for an extra day or two in case of unforeseen travel delays,” El-Asmar said. “If you take medications that are controlled substances, it is advised you use the original containers, as the labels need to identify your name, date of birth, dosing schedule, and doctor’s prescription information. You should also keep your medications in your carry-on rather than a checked baggage in case you need immediate access.”
Mercy Health also offers virtual visits to ensure you have access to a health care provider no matter what your travel plans may be. Learn more at https://www.mercy.com/health-care-services/virtual-visits.