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Should you change or cancel upcoming trips? How can travelers best protect themselves? Experts in infectious diseases and the travel industry are stepping in.

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IIt was the quote heard across the country: “The war has changed. This is how the CDC described the current threat posed – including to vaccinated individuals – by the now dominant variant of the Delta coronavirus in an internal presentation that surfaced in the media on July 29. And our collective response has been, “Corn What does that mean?”

The “Delta variant is a game-changer,” says Pia MacDonald, infectious disease epidemiologist and senior director of applied public health research at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute. “There are things that have changed dramatically in terms of the pandemic. “

According to MacDonald and other infectious disease experts, there are several reasons why the Delta variant has so severely altered the pandemic landscape.

“One is that it’s much more transmissible,” MacDonald says. “As in one person, the risk of transmitting it to 5 to 10 people is higher. Previous variants, these were less transmissible. One person would probably pass it on to 1, 2 or 3 people. There is therefore a greater risk that it will amplify more quickly, which means that epidemics can develop much faster. “

With earlier variants, mainstream science indicated that vaccinated people infected with the virus did not carry a very high viral load “and therefore their risk of spreading it was very low,” MacDonald adds. “What we see now [with the Delta variant] is that regardless of vaccine status, people can still spread it. “

That’s why the masking, physical distancing, and continuing to get tested even when symptoms are mild “is extremely important,” MacDonald says.

What hasn’t changed in the Delta era, according to Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of public health at UC Berkeley, is how essential it is to get the vaccine. He says that “if you are fully vaccinated and get a breakthrough infection, that infection is much more likely to be asymptomatic or very mild or even moderate, but does not take you to the hospital or cause death. “.

Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, adds: “People who are fully vaccinated are [still] largely protected against infection.

Russo notes that while the effectiveness of the vaccines declined somewhat with each variant, it still remains incredibly high, even against the Delta variant. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, “we think it’s about 88% effective. It’s not perfect. We started at around 95% for earlier versions of the virus. . . but 88 percent is still pretty good.

But, adds Dr Russo, “If you’re not vaccinated, you are obviously at maximum risk. “

In the United States, COVID-19 cases have jumped to more than 100,000 new cases per day, numbers that were only last seen during the winter wave. However, hospitalizations and deaths, while increasing, are doing so at a much slower rate. As of August 6, exactly half (50%) of Americans were now fully immunized.

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“On a very positive note, we now have a vaccine that is quite effective in preventing serious illness and death. We also have a growing pipeline of effective therapies and much more experience in clinically treating this disease when people get sick. We also have public health measures that work like masking, physical distancing, increasing testing to find cases quickly before they can spread to many other people. So there’s a lot of good stuff out there, ”says MacDonald.

Given the new Delta reality and everything that has changed over the past few months, we’ve asked our readers to submit questions regarding the Delta variant and upcoming travel plans. Here are some of the questions that were asked and the experts’ answers to them.

What does the Delta variant mean for travelers?

On the one hand, this means that we are already seeing, and likely will continue to see, changes in travel restrictions and public health measures.

Soon after countries in Europe, as well as the UK, Canada and many other destinations announced plans to reopen, we started to see some countries (like the Bahamas) that allowed vaccinated travelers to ‘enter without COVID-19 test add testing requirement. The United States is considering introducing a vaccine requirement for foreign travelers. Some destinations have implemented a vaccine requirement to enter places such as restaurants, theaters, museums and hotels, including France, Italy, Puerto Rico and New York.

“The lifting of travel restrictions is made complicated by the fact that countries around the world have varying degrees of immunization and varying epidemics,” says Dr Tom Kenyon, head of health for the international healthcare NGO Project Hope and former director of global health at the CDC.

“We have to remember that COVID-19 is not over for any country. Even here in the United States, [many] Americans have not yet chosen to be vaccinated, leaving a large reservoir of population for the proliferation of more infectious variants, such as the Delta variant, ”adds Kenyon.

Mask warrants have also started to return in places such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, DC. from the United States where COVID is increasing due to the fact that the Delta variant can spread even among the vaccinated.

What is the level of risk? Can I travel if I am vaccinated and pro-mask?

“It’s not an absolute no, but I would be very careful at this point before traveling. You put yourself and others at risk. We are back where travel should be reserved in circumstances where it is just critical. The calculation for each individual is going to be different because different people have different tolerance for risk, ”says Dr. Swartzberg of UC Berkeley.

He adds that current projections indicate that we will continue to see the number of COVID cases increase until August and for part if not most of September “before it stabilizes, and then in October it there is a decrease in cases.

“Yes [the travel is] urgent it changes the calculation, but if not, if you could put it off until October, it will probably be a much safer time to travel.

Am I in danger for others on arrival, even if I have been fully vaccinated?

Whether you are vaccinated or not, “it’s the same with everyone in terms of recognizing that you can pass this on to other people, so you also have an obligation to other people,” says Dr Swartzberg. .

For this reason, he says, it is important to have a mask even if you are fully vaccinated, “especially indoors around other people, but really even if you are outdoors with a lot of. other people”.

If I have to travel, how can I do it safely?

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All of the infectious disease experts have answered this question by reiterating many of the same travel risk calculations that were prescribed to us in 2020. Traveling by car to low-traffic destinations that do not experience flare-ups is still one of the ways. to travel the least risky. The more people you potentially come into contact with while traveling, for example on planes, airports or trains, the greater the risk. The same goes for community transmission that occurs where you go, the higher the rates of transmission, the higher the risk.

For those who must travel, wearing masks and wearing them well is of critical importance, according to MacDonald. “I really want people to understand that there is a wide range in terms of the quality of masks available and what people are using. What you’re looking for is a great fit on your face and a lot of filtration, ”she says.

She added that testing for COVID before and after arrival is another way to reduce risk.

Travelers should also assess the full spectrum of risks, including risks and individual health factors that relate to each individual traveler in the group as well as who you may visit and who you may interact with at the same time. in the destination and on return. . This includes their vaccination status and whether they have any underlying health conditions that could put them at a higher risk if they were to become infected.

What travel insurance covers COVID-related trip cancellation?

Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage.com, a travel insurance comparison and shopping site, sent us these tips to protect your travel plans amid the ongoing pandemic.

  • Purchase travel insurance that guarantees that non-refundable costs can be recovered whether travelers need to change or cancel their plans.
  • Add the Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) option to a travel insurance policy so you can literally cancel for any reason.
  • Your US-based health insurance may not cover overseas medical expenses. Purchase travel medical insurance for help covering unforeseen medical emergencies.

How should I organize a “Plan B” trip in case an original trip abroad is canceled? What destinations in the United States could mimic overseas travel?

We have many of experience in this area thanks to 2020, when we’ve compiled all of our top ideas for a socially remote vacation and put together some national destinations that make you feel like you’re in Europe. We’ve become full-fledged experts in road trips and finding the less traveled and underrated national parks.

We’ve rounded up lists of our favorite secluded vacation rentals and Beach Airbnbs that we love. If you’re having trouble getting a reservation, we’ve put together a list of non-Airbnb vacation rental companies so you can expand your network.

There’s also our ultimate beginner’s guide to RV travel, for those who never had the chance to jump into the RV craze last year.

Do I have to wait ?

“Today’s comments could be very different two months from now. We just have to be kind of patient and wait and see, while recognizing that we haven’t come back to normal, we’ve come back to a new normal, ”says MacDonald of how travelers should think about weeks and months. future.

“We have to build as a society the recognition that we cannot control the entire trajectory of this virus because there are still so many unknowns. It has been a new pathogen for humans for a year and a half. It’s sent twists and turns towards us all this time, including the Delta variant, which a lot of people hadn’t anticipated. “

She adds, “Am I going to make any travel plans for the winter?” I personally hold back. I need to see how things are going to go.

>> Next: 40 Ways To Take A Social Distance Travel


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Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes

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