2019 Novel Coronavirus: Should You Travel Within the United States?

At least 7,873 people have died of the minimum of 194,029 confirmed cases in 164 countries and territories worldwide at the time this article was written, according to this situation dashboard from the World Health Organization pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus…

2019 Novel Coronavirus: Should You Travel Within the United States?

…and because traveling internationally is virtually impossible — if not recommended — perhaps a trip within the United States is in order until this situation is eventually mitigated or dissipates altogether.

Perhaps…

Highway work zone sign

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…or maybe not so fast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States — but as confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus have been reported in all 50 states, some areas of the country are experiencing “community spread of the disease.”

Finding yourself in crowded travel settings — such as airports or restaurants — may increase your chances of being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, if other people within your vicinity have already been infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several suggestions as of yesterday, Tuesday, March 17, 2020 about which you should consider in your decision as to whether it is safe for you to travel within the United States — although the suggestions can also apply when traveling internationally.

  • Is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus spreading in the area at or near your destination?
    If the 2019 Novel Coronavirus is spreading in the area at or near your destination — but not where you live — you may be more likely to get infected if you travel there than if you stay home. If you have questions about your destination, you should check the Internet web site of the local health department at your destination for additional information.
  • Will you or your travel companion be in close contact with other people during your trip?
    Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like coronavirus may increase in crowded settings — particularly closed-in settings with little air circulation — which may include conferences, public events such as concerts and sporting events, religious gatherings, public spaces such as movie theaters and shopping malls, and public transportation such as buses, subways, trains, and airplanes.
  • Are you or your travel companion more likely to get severe illness if you are infected with 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
    People who are at higher risk for severe disease are older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions — such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes as three of many examples. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers at higher risk for 2019 Novel Coronavirus complications avoid all cruise travel and travel by airplane which is not considered essential.
  • Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school in case you are told to stay home for 14 days for monitoring yourself or if you get sick with 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
    If you have close contact with someone with 2019 Novel Coronavirus during travel, you may be asked to stay home to monitor yourself and avoid contact with others for up to 14 days after travel. If you become sick with 2019 Novel Coronavirus, you may be unable to go to work or school until you are considered noninfectious — although the buildings of many workplaces and most schools are closed anyway. You will be asked to avoid contact with others — including being in public places — during this period of infectiousness.
  • Do you live with someone who is older or has a serious, chronic medical condition?
    If you get sick with 2019 Novel Coronavirus upon your return from travel, your household contacts may be at risk of infection. Household contacts who are older adults or persons of any age with severe chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
  • Is 2019 Novel Coronavirus spreading where I live when I return from travel?
    Consider the risk of passing 2019 Novel Coronavirus to others during travel — particularly if you will be in close contact with people who are older adults or have severe chronic health condition — as these people are at higher risk of getting very sick. If your symptoms are mild or you do not have a fever, you may not realize you are infectious.

Summary

China Eastern Airlines Shanghai to New York Sunrise Highway

Sunrise Highway on Long Island in New York. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

If you do decide to travel within the United States, ensure that you take steps to help prevent getting and spreading 2019 Novel Coronavirus — and other respiratory diseases, for that matter — during travel. Otherwise, you may choose to delay or cancel your plans to travel — but that depends solely on your unique circumstances.

Additionally, answers to frequently asked questions pertaining to travel are provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in case you are still unsure about traveling during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Keep in mind that your employer may prohibit you from traveling on official business. For example, a ban on domestic travel in the United States for all personnel of the Department of Defense of the United States and their relatives has been in effect since Monday, March 16, 2020 through Tuesday, May 11, 2020 in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

All photographs ©2014 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

6 thoughts on “2019 Novel Coronavirus: Should You Travel Within the United States?”

  1. Bob says:

    California’s governor issued a statewide ‘stay at home’ order, effective immediately. (Press conference announcing the declaration was about 6:30pm PDT, March 19, 2020)

    covid19.ca.gov/img/N-33-20.pdf

    Guess the question (your post title) is being answered for us, Brian 🙁

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I just found out about that myself, Bob.

      Travel within the United States is not completely bleak if you can get yourself to a national park, as fees have been waived until further notice:

      https://thegate.boardingarea.com/national-park-service-suspends-all-entrance-fees-due-to-coronavirus-pandemic/

      That is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak situation…

      1. Bob says:

        Friends in Arkansas are telling me the governor has issued a no interstate travel advisory of sorts last night, for Ark’s to stay within the state so not to bring the virus back from other states. Saw a blurb about it on their local TV news station’s website this morning, to confirm they did see it, haven’t looked up all the details of what he really announced, yet.

        Either way, I hope the testing becomes more widespread and soon! Better yet, available without jumping through the symptoms-required hoops. I suggest the infection curve is still going to happen, but we, as a nation, could flatten it by catching folks in the early ‘contagious’ stage so they can self isolate when they actually *should* be, and not have to use so many sledgehammer responses, IMHO.

        1. Brian Cohen says:

          I suspect the “curve” is not “flattened” because some people may be unnecessarily burdening the medical health system, Bob — so I agree with you that the “infection curve” is still going to happen.

          I also completely agree with you about the “sledgehammer” responses. My analogy is killing an ant with a cannon; and I have also heard of burning down a house to kill termites…

          1. Bob says:

            Indeed, more hammer time: New York State just issued a shelter in place order. (NY governor started his live announcement as I was proofreading the reply below.)

            Right now, we’re in a confusing time, many facilities are not testing unless you are a full-blown case, yet data from countries with open testing is showing most folks who test positive are asymptomatic and contagious — so, yikes!!!!

            That’s why I am thinking testing ought be much more readily/easily available to anyone — both swab and antibody — so folks can 1) take greater precautions if they have not yet had it, 2) learn early on that they have it and take isolative actions to help limit spread, or 3) know that they have already had it and can still take precautions, but not be in constant state of paranoia since they won’t need to hoard 20 cases of toilet paper anymore 😉

            Obviously, early triage for those “with” is key to flattening the curve and thus hospital loads. As would be getting folks out of general population when it is detected, instead of telling them to wait until fever, coughing, etc., are present…that’s a little late in my opinion, since an infected person could be 2-14 days before showing symptoms, if they show any at all 🙁

            As we learn more about the virus, update protocols appropriately, but let’s stop using February’s outdated ‘only if you have these symptoms, and your doctor orders it’ testing protocol…

          2. Brian Cohen says:

            If the data from countries with open testing is showing most folks who test positive are asymptomatic and contagious, Bob, then would not the prudent thing to have done is concentrate on protecting the most vulnerable people from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus instead of the rampant shutting down of what seems like almost everything on the planet?

            I agree with you on more testing – if only to further that goal of protecting the most vulnerable people and to gain more knowledge about this virus.

            I still do not get the whole toilet paper hoarding thing…

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