Earl Wilson was a mid-20th century wise and witty gossip columnist who mostly covered Broadway but sure hit the nail square on the head when he defined a vacation as “what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.”
This summer, vacations are back, but you may have to take a bit more before you travel because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together a long list of suggestions, okay rules, for safe travel in the Age of COVID.
As you read them, keep a virtual pencil handy. You might have to use its eraser because the virus is a moving target and while the information here is true at the time of typing, tomorrow could tell a different story.
Rule #1. Don’t toss your mask. You no longer need it at a Manhattan supermarket, but it’s still de rigueur on planes, trains, buses and other forms of public transportation here and abroad.
Rule #2: With ticket in hand, check your airline, train, or bus site to see if there are special requirements such as proof of vaccination or a COVID-free test result taken within the last three days or proof that you’ve recovered from COVID within the past three months.
Rule #3: Traveling within the United States? Vaccinated people can go anywhere they like, but your destination state or city may be running its own show. For example, the state of Illinois has announced its imminent “opening,” but in early June the Windy City wanted proof of vaccination before letting you roam freely. Your best source: https://www.aarp.org/travel/travel-tips/safety/info-2020/state-quarantine-guide.html
Rule #4: Want to cross oceans or borders, but not sure where’s safe? Luckily the CDC has ranked global COVID crisis status. 138 countries are red-flagged VERY HIGH/ Avoid all travel. 24 score HIGH/Avoid nonessential travel. 20 are MODERATE/Avoid if you are at risk for serious illness. 30 are LOW/Practice all protective measures. 34 are UNKNOWN/No reports available. The entire list, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html
Rule #5: Once you’ve picked a foreign destination, the U.S. State Department can tell you what’s required when you land. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html
Rule #6: Coming back from overseas, before you board a home-bound plane you may need to show a negative COVID test or prove that you’ve recovered from a bout with the virus.
Rule #7: Stay on dry land. In May, the CDC recommended avoiding all cruise ships, a rule they modified to requiring ship lines to require proof of vaccination. Florida’s Governor, who controls his state’s ports, tossed that overboard two weeks ago, banning “passports.” (A week later, two guests on one of the first cruise ships to sail from North America since the COVID-19 pandemic hit tested positive.)
Rule # 8: Not vaccinated yet? Get vaccinated even if you plan to stay home. The body you save may be your own.
Rule #9: Taking the kids? Vaccinated children should follow the same rules as adults; unvaccinated kids should obviously have as little contact as possible with outsiders. Car travel is the easiest way to control exposure; shorter plane trips are more manageable than long ones, and off-peak hour flights are likely to be less crowded.
Rule# 10: Forget Rules 1 – 9 and just stay home if you’re sick, just tested positive for COVID, are waiting for test results, or are simply happy seeing something you’ve missed this past year. After all, mask in hand, the bus to the newly opened Met on Fifth Avenue can be as rewarding as the plane to the Louvre as long as you follow Confucius’ advice: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.