What to Know Before You Go: Testing Timelines, Travel Protocols, and More

Aaron S. Weinberg MD, MPhil
December 15, 2020
4 min read

The holiday season usually means busy airports, long road trips, and family vacations but not this year thanks to COVID-19. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control strongly recommends travelers postpone any holiday travel and celebrate at home to help combat the spread of the disease and keep everyone safe.

However, if you’re committed to your non-essential travel plans and you’ve accepted the high risk involved for yourself and everyone you come in contact with, we want to be sure you have the most accurate information. We’ve come up with helpful protocols to help minimize the chances of coronavirus spread — for you, your friends and family, and your community at large.

Try Carbon Health’s COVID-19 Safe Travel Planning Guide

Prepare for upcoming travel, book testing at the right time, and know all the precautions for safe travel this season with the Carbon Health COVID-19 Safe Travel Planning Guide. Getting started is easy: Just put in your travel destination and the guide will notify you about any travel restrictions in that area, testing times and suggestions, and tips on how to stay safe while en route.

Remember, this guide is just that — a guide — and is not an assurance of safe travel. There is always the risk of contracting COVID-19 while traveling, but following these guidelines can help reduce your risk significantly.

If you are experiencing ANY symptoms of COVID-19, do not travel. If you have been in contact with someone who has been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, do not travel.

You’ve Reached Your Destination, Now What?

If you’re planning to stay overnight, you’ll need to consider the health and well-being of the people in the residence you’re visiting.

Precautions to take to protect everyone at the host residence:

  • If anyone you’re visiting is at increased risk for becoming severely ill due to COVID-19, consider if it’s feasible to stay somewhere else.
  • Wash your travel clothing and stash your luggage away from common areas.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly. You know the 20-second drill by now.
  • Wear your mask. If you’re inside your host’s residence, keep it securely over your nose and mouth. You can remove your mask briefly to eat and drink, but do your best to remain more than 6 feet away from other guests and residents.
  • If you must be inside, open windows and doors (if you can do so safely), or set your central heating to ON, so air continually circulates.
  • Get outside! Consider bundling up, going for a walk, or setting up outdoor seating. However, you set it up, keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.
  • While you’re indoors, try to refrain from singing or shouting. We know that may feel extra difficult during the holidays, but it’s important to do everything you can to minimize risk when and where you can.
  • Consider using disposable plates and silverware and avoid making shareable dishes that require people to pick up foods with their hands.
  • Assign separate designated bathrooms to people, if possible.
  • Treat pets like people during this pandemic. We know this is rough, but keep your distance from the household dog or cat during this visit.

Have a Household Sick Plan

Keep an eye on any symptoms that arise amongst yourself, other visitors, and your hosts. Think cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Are all guests and hosts prepared to quarantine? Are you prepared to postpone your return travel if you become ill while you’re out of town?

Quarantining When You Return Home

You took all the precautions you could while you traveled and now you’re back from your holiday trip. The reality is that you could have become infected at many points during your travel, so it’s time to self-quarantine.

Follow these Post-Travel Safety Guidelines

  • For 7 days, strictly isolate yourself from anyone who wasn’t traveling with you. That means staying away from friends and family, working from home, and reducing non-essential activities outside of your household. Make sure to make arrangements with your work before leaving on your trip so they can prepare and cover for your self-isolation upon your return.
  • If you live with people who weren’t traveling with you, it’s essential you and all members of the household wear a mask in shared spaces inside the house. And, you’ll need to take extra care to thoroughly and frequently wash your hands, since you’ll inevitably touch surfaces in high traffic areas of your living quarters.
  • 3–5 days after you return from your trip, get a viral test for COVID-19 detection. There are several places you can schedule testing. Carbon Health can help you find a testing location near you.
  • If you do not have access to testing or choose not to, the CDC recommends self-quarantining for 10 days, instead of 7.

Liked what you read? Learn more by downloading the Carbon Health app or visiting carbonhealth.com.

Aaron S. Weinberg MD, MPhil

Aaron S. Weinberg, MD, MPhil, is Director of Program Development at Carbon Health and triple board-certified in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Internal Medicine.


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