The coronavirus showed up at the end of 2019 and continues to make its way around the globe. Now the virus news is changing so quickly it’s hard to know what to expect. Never assume that yesterday’s advice still applies today.
What should travelers do?
Always check the CDC and the DOT for the latest information:
1. The U.S. Department of State (DOT) issues advisories and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues travel notices. Their information is available all year, but it is especially important now. Because news is changing so quickly, travel advisories and notices are changing too. Here are some of the things to look for before making your plans.
The CDC issues three travel notices:
- Warning level 3: Avoid all non-essential travel.
- Alert level 2: Practice enhanced precautions.
- Watch level 1: Practice usual precautions.
The DOT issues four travel advisories:
- Level 4: Do not travel.
- Level 3: Reconsider travel.
- Level 2: Exercise increased caution
- Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.
Traveling To and From Other Countries
Depending on where travelers come from on any given date, there may be restrictions on their return to the U.S. They may be not allowed to re-enter, or they may need to stay in quarantine for 14 days. The situation is constantly changing. Always check for the latest rules.
The CDC defines “social distancing” as avoiding large gatherings, not using public transportation, and keeping around six feet from others. If the public has been asked to practice social distancing, circumstances like gatherings or use of trains, planes, buses, taxis or ride-sharing should take place only with the approval of state or local authorities. Gatherings include public areas like stadiums, theaters, malls, schools and workplaces.
If you are asked to monitor your health, you should take your temperature twice a day to check for fever, and follow up on coughing or difficult breathing. As situations change, the number of people allowed in a gathering or the rules for reporting symptoms may change.
Doctors recommend washing hands with soap for 20 seconds frequently throughout the day. If you are unable to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent isopropyl alcohol. The CDC is recommending masks only for people who are already sick or for those who need to be around someone who is sick. So far, the CDC has not endorsed the use of masks to keep people from getting the virus, although some other countries recommend their use.
When you fly, the safest place to sit is the window seat. Avoid unnecessary movement around the plane, and limit your contact with others. Finally, wipe down your seat and tray with alcohol disinfectant. It might be a good idea to sanitize your hands after fastening your seat belt. The CDC says the filtering and circulation systems on planes helps to keep viruses from spreading.
If you’re traveling during a pandemic, avoid cruise ships, and look for travel plans with flexible change or cancellation policies. Be prepared for some of the places you want to visit to be closed for safety reasons. Also, read insurance policies with a close eye for fine print, and check with your credit card provider to see if they offer travel insurance on your purchase.
No matter what else you do, wash your hands often, and stay up to date on travel information. If you have plans to travel to Belize, you should be aware that the borders have been closed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Travel professionals in the country recommend that travel be rescheduled for a later date, not canceled.