Safe summer travel for students

Planning the key to safe vacation

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government and many organizations have limited traveling because of  the inherent dangers from COVID-19. Especially during the 2020 winter break, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly discouraged air travel to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the January spike. But with the number of cases in the United States currently about 30,000 per day — which is less than during September and October 2020 when there were around 40,000 new cases a day — Americans should feel empowered to travel. As COVID-19 restrictions are lessened with the gradual decline of the pandemic, students and families should feel safe to travel over the summer once again.

When trying to avoid contracting COVID-19, being in a small airplane cabin for hours at a time seems like a bad idea; however, many American airlines, particularly Delta and Alaska Airlines, have taken measures to ensure safety for their passengers and allow for more flexibility in cancellations. According to MIT Medical, commercial airlines, such as American and Delta, have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that can filter out 99.7 percent of airborne particles that can carry COVID-19. The HEPA filters used on planes are similar to those used in hospitals and are very effective in reducing the risk of COVID-19. With these safety precautions on airplanes, students shouldn’t feel apprehensive about flying to their vacation destination.

Another consideration for traveling is lodging. According to the CDC, when it comes to COVID-19, hotels are less safe than alternative forms of lodging, but many hotels will still enforce restrictions and make accommodations for customers. For example, Hilton, a popular hotel chain, has taken up the “CleanStay” initiative, which includes better sanitization training for staff, more frequent cleaning, and limiting restaurant seating. The initiatives to improve hotel cleanliness standards mean safer traveling for students and their families.

Although hotels are making efforts to lower risks of contracting COVID-19, a better alternative is staying in a house or cabin, where renters have no contact with hotel staff or anyone else who may have COVID-19. 

“My family felt more comfortable at a townhouse where there weren’t a lot of people than at a hotel,” Miramonte  junior Jonathan Hagendoorn said. The popular house-sharing website Airbnb requires mask wearing, hand washing, and other rudimentary means of COVID-19 prevention as well as a five-step cleaning protocol for hosts. House-sharing, whether it’s through a website, friends, or family, is a great alternative for travelers as it reduces contact during the vacation.

For those who are vaccinated, traveling poses an even lower risk. The CDC no longer requires that vaccinated travelers get a COVID-19 test three days before and after traveling, self-quarantine for a week after returning, and avoid any non-essential domestic travel. To maintain the safety of all people, however, vaccinated travelers are still expected to wear masks, avoid crowds, and practice other safety measures since only 55 percent of Americans have received the vaccine. 

“I’ll be traveling to Tahiti [this summer],” junior Byron Chan said. “I feel safer with the vaccine because I know I have an additional safety measure against getting COVID-19.” Since the vaccine is available for 16-year-olds, many high school students have already had the opportunity to receive their vaccine, but until May 10, younger children weren’t able to get vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children ages 12 through 15. Currently, testing is also being done for children between six months and 11 years of age. 

In addition to being safe, traveling over the summer could help to stimulate the economy. Although unemployment rates have dropped since the beginning of the pandemic—reaching a high of around 14 percent — the unemployment rate is still higher than before the pandemic. By traveling, students could play a role in revitalizing the economy and helping people return to their jobs in the service industry.

Especially for those who are vaccinated, taking a trip this summer shouldn’t feel like a huge risk as long as everyone is following basic protocol to avoid getting sick. Furthermore, traveling over the summer can help the economy by providing more demand for service jobs, helping the country return to normalcy. After a long year of distance learning and hybrid, Miramonte students look forward to traveling over the summer.