Return to normal? 7 COVID-19 travel precautions health experts recommend keeping

As travel restrictions loosen in some regions, four health experts shared with The Washington Post what COVID-19 precautions and strategies individuals should still keep in place.

"We're not going back to the previous normal," said Henry Wu, MD, associate professor of infectious diseases at Atlanta-based Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Emory TravelWell Center. "I think the new normal is using these tools to help protect ourselves."

Seven COVID-19 travel precautions and strategies to keep: 

1. "I don't think I'll ever stop wearing a mask in airports," said Michael Mina, MD, PhD, epidemiologist and chief science officer at eMed. Even after the federal mask mandate lifts, it makes sense to continue wearing masks in airports, where people from around the world congregate, Dr. Mina said.

2. "If you're in a tight crowd with strangers and you're not eating or drinking at the moment … personally, I'm going to wear a mask," said Gigi Gronvall, PhD, senior scholar at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. 

3. "People should be taking precautions around people they know are immunocompromised," regardless of their own health status, Dr. Gronvall said.  

Traveling with kids who aren't eligible for vaccination should also warrant extra care, Dr. Wu said. 

4. Higher-risk individuals should consider what treatments may be available to them internationally if they were to get COVID-19, Dr. Wu said.

5. Even when not required, Dr. Mina recommends taking a precautionary test before traveling and bringing tests on a trip.

"As long as the tests are available, which they generally are … I think it's a pretty low ask to have people test themselves before traveling," Dr. Mina said.

6. "The real advice for travelers is no matter what, vaccination is by far … the most important thing you can do," Dr. Wu said. "And clearly the booster makes a big difference."

7. Travelers should understand regional transmission trends by looking at data from the CDC, World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker and regional public health bodies, said Saskia Popescu, PhD, infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at Fairfax, Va.-based George Mason University. Currently, more than half the world's destinations are under the CDC's highest warning category. 

"Even if restrictions are relaxed, if you are still seeing substantial community transmission, you want to be aware of that," Dr. Popescu said.


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