(CNN) – After nearly three months of quarantine, millions of Americans are ready to travel – a night trip, weekend getaway, summer vacation. With the reopening of states, this is now possible with a warning. Before the coronavirus, several people probably thought twice about staying in a hotel room, rented house, or in the woods cabin. But now we have to take into account the potential for coronavirus exposure. Even if you are good at the travel risks that take you to your destination (plane, train or car), what are the risks of the destination itself?
We are both exposure scientists. One of us feels comfortable booking “stay in touch”; The other one is still not sure whether it will go on an overnight trip anytime soon. But we agree on two things: Traveling these days brings more risks, but there are ways to minimize this risk.
It is clear that the guidance of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increases your chances of getting or spreading Covid-19. The travel industry takes it seriously. Both the American Hotel and Accommodation Association and the Holiday Rental Management Association have published best practice guidelines and standards.
Regardless of what type of accommodation you plan, the primary concern is to have close contact (less than six meters) with an infected person. This possibility is higher when you travel. Note that a person with Covid-19 can spread the virus before developing symptoms. From the very beginning, you should assume that everyone around you can become infected. Including yourself.
Contact with contaminated surfaces is less worrying, but still something to consider. We learn from them more about the potential for infection, but we know that coronavirus has been detected on the guest room surfaces. Uncleaned or disinfected surfaces – table top, chair, bathroom sink, duvet cover – try to minimize your contact.
Another complication: The shape and scope of Covid-19 can vary between communities, even in the same region. Laws and public health guidelines also vary, so be sure to check for updates before you travel.
A tourist enters a hotel in Savannah, Georgia on April 25, 2020, shortly after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp lifts some social removal measures.
CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images
Before making a reservation
There is no way to stay 100% safe, but there are definitely ways to get a safer stay. Note that each accommodation scenario is different; For example, unlike hotels or rental homes, campsites often only have shared bathrooms. But wherever you are, browse the organization’s website or call to ask what the management is doing to reduce the risk of transmission.
Make sure that:
Air quality. Cleaning with approved products should be done frequently. Ask if there are hand washing or hand disinfection stations in common areas. Engineering controls such as increased air exchange or HEPA filters in the ventilation system should be available. If this is not the case, consider bringing a portable air purifier with HEPA filter. On the low-tech side: can windows be opened for better airflow? A fan can help bring in more outdoor air and can increase mixing speed if used near an open window.
Non-contact options such as digital keys.
Mask and health screening policies for guests and staff.
Does the rental business limit its capacity to promote distance? So, do they only book for each room? And do they prevent overnight stays that will bring more people and therefore more risk? Avoid stays with turnover on the same day.
Strategies for a safer stay
Once you’ve determined that management is doing everything possible, you should do your best to minimize exposure. Cover a face and apply social distance in common areas. Minimize time in closed, less ventilated areas such as elevators. Avoid contact with “high touch” surfaces in common areas such as elevator call button, door handles and dining tables and chairs; it is less likely to be disinfected between each individual’s touch. Wash hands or use hand sanitizer after spending time in common areas. If gyms and pools are open, remember the social distance, wear your mask and wipe the equipment before and after use.
Use plastic zipper bags for personal items that others can carry. This includes your driver’s license, credit card, and key. Bring extra bags to put them after disinfection. Carry your own luggage or arrange for contactless delivery.
Disinfect surfaces by following CDC guidance. If room cleaning is available, disable it. Request that the decorative pillows and bedding sets be removed before your arrival.
Lowest risk options for food: bring your own food or room service or contactless delivery. Dining outdoors may be a reasonable option, but if you dine in, make sure you have reasonable ventilation and sufficiently spaced tables.
Bring enough masks or face covering every day, or bring detergent to wash between uses. You will also need hand disinfectant or hand wipes, surface disinfectant, paper towels and disposable disinfectant wipes.
All of this helps, but remember: Even doing everything on this important list may not eliminate your chances of getting infected. As a result, we do not recommend everyone to return to unnecessary travel. You may need a vacation, but Covid-19 never goes on vacation.
Elizabeth Marder is the Head of Communications and Social Assistance, the International Association of Exposure Science, a non-profit organization.
Paloma Beamer is the president of the International Association for Exposure Science, a non-profit organization, and she receives funding from the NIH, EPA, Agricola Alta Pozo Manuel and Pima County Health Department.