Should I Stay or Should I Go?
After more than a year of pandemic restrictions, many people are hitting the road or catching a plane. But some cancer patients, survivors and caregivers are wondering if it’s safe for them to travel, especially since COVID-19 cases are rising again in all 50 states due to the delta variant.
Since it can be challenging to stay on top of the evolving numbers, we are providing several resources to access current information – and then we will share our thoughts on travel for cancer patients and their families.
CDC COVID data Tracker
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes a COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review, Vaccinations, Community Profile Report and Pandemic Vulnerability Index. If you are considering traveling, you’ll want to visit their page providing Projected Cases and Projected Deaths by state and county – this can help you determine what the current COVID-19 activity is expected to be at your destination. If you REALLY love data, the CDC site includes a COVID Mathematical Modeling page.
This nonprofit has a U.S. COVID Risk and Vaccine Tracker with a wide range of information to view by state, county or metro area. In addition to maps, they also provide a chart with reports for Daily Cases, Infection Rates, Vaccination Rates and Vulnerability Levels. You can also sign up for email alerts based on your location or a location to which you plan to travel.
State-by-State Travel Restrictions
At this point, most states are open to all visitors and do not require quarantining or COVID-19 testing. CNN Travel has put together a nice piece with a synopsis for each state. Although specific details could potentially change after this article’s publication, it’s still a great resource since it includes quick links to each state’s individual information.
CDC International Travel
This resource from the CDC includes a list showing the risk assessment level for various countries, as well as a color-coded map.
Making a Personal Mask Decision
According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals should wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. This is to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spread it to others. Please remember there are some situations in which you are required to wear masks.
The Transportation Security Administration has announced that masks must be worn by all those over age 2 when traveling by train, airplane or bus. This includes the depots and airports. This order has been extended through January 18, 2022.
The CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated avoid traveling on cruise ships. From our perspective, even if you are vaccinated, cruise ships can be a risky place for cancer patients. Since COVID-19 spreads easily among people who are in close quarters, this would increase the potential for infection. In addition, getting sick while stuck in on a ship would be a miserable experience for you and your travel companions.
If you plan to stay in a hotel, Airbnb or other lodging, call ahead or check their website for their COVID-19 protocols. Most, if not all, have greatly increased their disinfecting efforts while others have taken additional safety measures such as 24-hour vacancies in rooms between guests, additional outdoor dining options, remote check-in, fewer visits from the cleaning staff during your stay and other social distancing actions. Even if you are vaccinated and masks are not mandatory, consider wearing one when in the lobby or in large groups. Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks when in public and social distancing is not possible.
Planning ahead for your vacation is more important than ever due to reduced entrance numbers or newly-introduced reservations for national parks, theme parks, restaurants and other venues. In some cases, this is due to ongoing COVID protocols to maintain social distancing. In other cases, it’s the result of a reduced workforce available to fill positions like lifeguards, clerks, tour guides, park rangers and more.
If you plan to travel with children or adults who are unvaccinated, it’s important that they wear masks whenever possible so they don’t catch Coronavirus and spread it to you. Although vaccinations are very effective, there have been some cases of vaccinated individuals catching the Delta variant. Fortunately, the Delta symptoms are typically less severe, but no one wants to be sick on vacation – and if you’re a cancer patient, your immune system is already compromised.
One More Reminder
Although we’ve often mentioned that cancer patients are more vulnerable to infections, we wanted to include this comment from the American Cancer Society: “Some cancer patients might be at increased risk of serious infection in general because their immune systems can be weakened by cancer and its treatments. Most people who were treated for cancer in the past (especially if it was years ago) are likely to have normal immune function, but each person is different. It’s important that all cancer patients and survivors, whether currently in treatment or not, talk with a doctor who understands their situation and medical history.”
We are always here to answer any questions you have. Please reach out to your Illinois CancerCare provider with any concerns or to ask our advice. If you are not yet vaccinated, please do so – the shots are free and they can protect you from this serious illness.