NEW ORLEANS -- There’s no place like home for the holidays, is there? For some, maybe that means hunkering down here in NOLA, but if you’ve got loved ones in faraway places, you may be wondering how to safely visit them.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee your safety or the safety of your loved ones when traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase across the United States, the safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC recently cautioned. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”
If you opt to travel despite CDC recommendations, the following guidelines may help reduce your risk of getting sick or spreading illness to other people.
How to prepare for flying during the pandemic
To help keep yourself, your family, and fellow travelers safe, follow these precautions.
- Security screenings. You’ll still need to go through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening checkpoints before entering the airport terminal to board your flight. TSA requires staff members to wear masks and gloves, so you’ll be safer despite the close contact. Also, you’ll place your wallet, cell phone and jewelry in your carry-on rather than a plastic bin, which will help minimize your contact with surfaces that other travelers and TSA agents have touched.
- Stay the distance. Stay a minimum of 6 feet apart from other travelers. Obviously, this will be easier in the airport than on the plane, but the way air is filtered and circulated through the plane makes it difficult for germs to spread, according to the CDC.
- Keep your hands clean. The TSA has lifted their restriction on three-ounce liquids and gels for hand sanitizer, so you can pack a bottle in your carry-on bag. Hand sanitizer must be 12 ounces or smaller to make it through security. To effectively kill germs, select a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol.
- Wear your mask. Wear a cloth face covering or mask that completely covers your nose and mouth in the airport, for the duration of your flight and while in public after leaving the airport.
Road trip safety in the time of COVID-19
Driving can be a safer option than public transportation because you’ll limit the number of people with whom you come into contact. If you’re renting a car or taking a cab, help keep yourself safe by disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces, such as:
● Climate control and radio dials
● Door frames and handles
● Gear shift
● Seat belts and buckles
● Steering wheel
While driving, set the air to non-recirculation or open the windows for better airflow. Keep a stash of alcohol or disinfectant wipes in the glove compartment, and use them to wipe down gas pumps, parking meters and pay stations.
Should I wear a mask while driving?
If the passengers in your car are people with whom you live, you can skip the mask. Just remember to put it back on when you leave the car. If you’re using a taxi or a ride-sharing service or riding with people you don’t live with, keep your mask on.
Safer holiday shopping guide
Follow these step-by-step instructions when shopping:
- Shop online if it’s an option for you. It will mean being exposed to fewer people, even if you pick up your order at the store.
- Leave your reusable bags at home; some stores ask shoppers not to bring them inside. If you do use them, bag your items yourself and wash the bags as soon as you get home.
- When you arrive at the store, wipe down your cart or basket with disinfectant or alcohol wipes.
- Wear your mask or face covering at all times, fully covering your nose and mouth. Avoid touching your mask, nose, mouth and eyes.
- Maintain a safe distance from other people, at least 6 feet.
- Only touch the products you plan to buy.
- Use touchless payment if possible.
- Use hand sanitizer after touching common surfaces, like countertops and payment processing machines. Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you get home.