Don’t Bring COVID-19 Home for the Holidays!
Traveling for the holidays? Make sure you don't bring COVID-19 to the party! Read our blog to see how others are using the WTT COVID Risk Quiz to help with their travel plans...and keep COVID-19 away.
Update June 21, 2022: Children ages 6 months to five years of age can now be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The 2021 holiday season is shaping up to be a busy one. The media warns of a major travel deluge this week and again in late December, as people gather for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve or take advantage of work and school holidays to get away.
I never travel for Thanksgiving, but as I thought about December travel to visit family and contemplated how COVID-19 will factor in, I was certain I wasn’t alone in my concerns. So I reached out to a few friends. Were they worried about getting or spreading COVID-19? How were they planning to keep themselves and loved ones safe?
As we discussed these issues, we plugged their behavior profiles and holiday plans into the WTT COVID Risk Quiz to see how their planned precautions lined up against the Quiz's recommendations.
Profile: Seth is an attorney who visits the courthouse and interacts with colleagues and clients twice weekly. He is vaccinated and consistently wears a mask indoors. His hobbies are mostly outdoor activities, but he does have a number of indoor holiday parties populating the calendar in mid-December.
Travel plans: Seth will make his annual trip to Georgia for Christmas, to visit with his parents and extended family (a number of whom are unvaccinated).
Concerns: Seth is a bit leery about seeing his elderly parents soon after having attended a barrage of indoor events. He plans to take a test before heading to Georgia.
COVID Risk Quiz: Because Seth lives in Los Angeles County, where the prevalence of COVID-19 is low, the Quiz actually says he has a relatively low risk of having or spreading the disease.
What Seth hasn’t considered yet is whether his activities while visiting Georgia might put him at risk. With that in mind, we also used the Quiz speculatively. Based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in Chattahoochee County today, and considering the large gatherings and indoor events the family has planned, the Quiz suggests that Seth’s risk of contracting COVID-19 while he’s in Georgia will be relatively high: He should consider getting tested before he makes the return trip to Los Angeles.
Profile: Dionne works at an office that has a vaccine mandate. She wears a mask indoors and only regularly interacts daily with a small number of people at work. She’s still cautious about sizable indoor gatherings, so she’s planning to decline any big holiday parties this year.
Travel plans: She and her husband will host her parents and in-laws at their house for Thanksgiving.
Concerns: While she’s always on alert, she isn’t terribly concerned because of her regular precautions. She doesn’t plan to get tested around Thanksgiving unless she becomes symptomatic.
COVID Risk Quiz: Based on today’s COVID-19 prevalence in her area, the Quiz agrees with her assessment. Dionne’s risk of having or spreading COVID-19 is low. She probably does not need a test.
SERENA’S SON JAMES
Profile: My friend Serena lives with her family in the Dallas metro area. She is vaccinated, works from home, and doesn’t have daily contact with many people, but her son, James, is only four years old. He’s not yet eligible for a vaccine, and he goes to daycare, plays indoor soccer, and attends frequent birthday parties and playdates. He wears a mask indoors sometimes, but not reliably.
Travel plans: The family will drive to see one set of James’ grandparents for Thanksgiving and the other set for Christmas.
Concerns: Serena is not worried for her son, James, since children don’t often get severe cases of COVID-19. She is considering having him tested before they travel, though, to safeguard against James carrying a mild or asymptomatic case with them to family members at greater risk.
COVID Risk Quiz: The Quiz suggests that James should get a test. Based on his behavior profile, he is at high risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
Profile: Katelyn works as an aesthetician. She is not vaccinated, and she does not consistently require her clients to wear a mask - nor does she wear one herself. She also practices ballroom dancing three to four evenings per week, during which partners rotate, making her number of average daily contacts higher than most.
Travel plans: She and her teenage daughter are planning a last-minute, two-week trip to somewhere sunny and warm over the December holiday - maybe Key West or Cancun.
Concerns: She got tested after presenting with symptoms a couple of weeks ago, but she tested negative. She is aware of her increased risk, but she only plans to be tested if they choose an international destination that requires it.
COVID Risk Quiz: Based on her current profile, the Quiz strongly recommends that Katelyn get a test today, before embarking on her travel.
However, assuming that Katelyn and her daughter go to Key West and hang out alone on the beach for two weeks, the Quiz gives her different advice for the return trip. Based on the COVID-19 prevalence in Key West and the more solitary behavior they have planned, she might not need a test before coming home. Of course, if she travels internationally, US travel policy will require it.
ALANA’S MOM, CATERINA
Profile: Alana’s mom, Caterina, is retired. She does volunteer work outdoors and engages with a few friends weekly at her community center. She and her close circle are all vaccinated and have recently received their boosters. She regularly wears a mask indoors.
Travel plans: My friend Alana has a son who is severely immunocompromised. She and her family will not be traveling, but she has invited her mom, Caterina, to visit for a week, from Thanksgiving Day through the first few nights of Hanukkah.
Concerns: Alana has asked her mom to quarantine and take a test before visiting.
COVID Risk Quiz: The Quiz assesses Alana’s mom’s risk of having or transmitting COVID-19 to be low, which is what Alana and her family would have expected. Alana’s mom will test anyway, because she wants to take every available precaution to protect her grandson.
All of my friends found using the Quiz to be a fun and informative exercise. For some, the Quiz confirmed that their planned precautions were justified. For others, the Quiz helped to support their decision-making process. Of course, the Quiz considers just a few of the many factors that may go into your decision of whether or not to test. And it can only establish whether your level of risk is higher or lower, not that you are at no risk at all. Only you can decide what level of risk you are willing to assume, and plan your activities and any testing accordingly.
Before you travel or gather with loved ones, do what we did: Check out the WhenToTest COVID Risk Quiz, and enjoy a fun and safe holiday season.
UPDATE: As of May 20, 2022, the CDC recommends that everyone traveling within the US get tested no more than three days before they travel. The closer the test is to the time you leave, the better. In addition, anyone who spends time without a mask in crowded places — especially indoors — should get tested when they come home from a trip.