(CNN) – After almost three months of quarantine, millions of Americans are ready to travel: a one night trip, a weekend, a summer stay. With the reopening of states, it is now possible with a warning. Before the coronavirus, few people probably thought twice about staying in a hotel room, a rented house or a hut in the woods. But now, we need to consider the potential for coronavirus exposure. Even if you agree with the travel risks that bring you to your destination – plane, train or car – and the risks of the place of destination itself?
We are both scientists of the exhibition. One of us feels comfortable booking a “contactless” stay; the other is still not sure whether to make an early night trip. But we agree on two things: traveling these days carries a greater risk, but there are ways to minimize this risk.
The guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clear that travel increases the chances of getting or spreading Covid-19. The travel industry is taking it seriously. Both the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Vacation Rental Management Association have published best practice guidelines and standards.
Regardless of what type of stay you are planning, the main concern is coming into close contact (less than six feet) with an infected person. That probability is greater when you travel. Keep in mind that a person with Covid-19 can spread the virus before developing symptoms. From the start, you have to assume that anyone around you can be infected. Including yourself.
Contact with contaminated surfaces is less of a concern, but it’s still something to consider. We are learning more about the potential for infection from them, but we know that coronavirus has been detected on the surface of the guest room. Try to minimize contact with surfaces – tables, chairs, bathroom sinks, duvet covers – that have not been cleaned or disinfected.
A further complication: the model and extent of Covid-19 may vary between communities, even in the same region. Public health laws and guidelines also vary, so be sure to check for updates before traveling.
A tourist checks into a hotel in Savannah, Georgia on April 25, 2020, shortly after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp lifted some social removal measures.
CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images
There is no way to make your stay 100% safe, but there are definitely ways to make it safer. Remember that each accommodation scenario is different; for example, unlike hotels or rented houses, campsites generally only have shared bathrooms. But wherever you are, start by visiting the plant’s website or call to ask what management is doing to reduce the risk of transmission.
Make sure to ask:
Air quality. Cleaning with approved products should be frequent. Ask if hand washing or sanitizing stations are available in the common areas. Technical checks should be provided, such as increasing the exchange of air or HEPA filters in the ventilation system. If not, consider bringing a portable air purifier with a HEPA filter. On the low-tech side: is it possible to open the windows for better air flow? A fan can help bring in more outside air and increase mixing speed when used near an open window.
Contactless options, such as digital keys.
Policies on masks and health screening for guests and staff.
Is the rental business limiting the ability to promote distance? I mean, are they just booking every other room? And are they preventing overnight stays, which would bring more people and therefore introduce more risk? Avoid accommodation with same day turnover.
Strategies for a safer stay
Once it is determined that management is doing all it can, everything possible must be done to minimize exposure. Wear a face cover and practice social removal in common areas. Minimize time in closed and less ventilated spaces, such as elevators. Avoid contact with “high-touch” surfaces in shared spaces, such as the elevator call button, door handles, dining tables and chairs; they are less likely to be disinfected between each individual’s touch. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after spending time in the common areas. If the gyms and swimming pools are open, remember the social distance, wear the mask and clean the equipment before and after use.
Use plastic zip bags for personal items that others might handle. This includes a driver’s license, credit card and key. Bring extra bags to put these things after disinfecting them. Manage your luggage or arrange contactless delivery.
Disinfect the surfaces following the indications of the CDC. If housekeeping is available, give up. Request the removal of decorative pillows and duvet covers before your arrival.
Low-risk meal options: bring your own food or do room service or contactless delivery. Outdoor dining can be a reasonable option, but if you dine indoors, make sure there is reasonable ventilation and adequately spaced tables.
Bring enough masks or face coatings for each day or bring detergent to wash between uses. You will also need hand sanitizer or hand wipes, surface disinfectant, paper wipes and disposable disinfectant wipes.
All of this helps, but remember: doing everything on this substantial list might not eliminate the chances of getting the virus. The bottom line is that we don’t recommend everyone to go back to non-essential travel. You may need a vacation, but Covid-19 never takes one.
Elizabeth Marder is president of communications and disclosure of the International Society of Exposure Science, a non-profit organization.
Paloma Beamer is president of the International Society of Exposure Science, a non-profit organization and receives funding from NIH, EPA, Agricola Alta Pozo Manuel and the Pima County Health Department.
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