Navigating the holidays: traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 11:09 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Health experts say any kind of travel during the pandemic is risky. And even with the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, a number of people are still planning to fly for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Dr. Nada Fadul, an associate professor of infectious disease with UNMC, says air travel in particular creates the 3 C’s health experts are asking people to avoid: close contact, crowded spaces, and confined spaces.

“You have to exercise extreme caution during travel,” she said.

With that in mind, you’re likely to see all kinds of visual safety reminders at airports across the country.

Starting here in Omaha you’ll notice bright yellow markers on the ground at Eppley Airfield reminding you to keep 6-feet of distance from other people. There are also signs posted around the airport and hand sanitizing stations set up.

In Atlanta’s airport where people wait to board their flight, every other seat is marked off allowing extra space between passengers.

You’ll also encounter plastic barriers at airline counters, drinking fountains out of use and several airport stores temporarily closed.

Most airports require you to wear your mask at all times.

But remember, you still need to do your part as well.

Eat before you go to the airport to avoid taking your mask off around other people, and minimize time at places like security checkpoints, restaurants, even in bathrooms.

“It’s hard to social distance in the airports while you’re waiting in lines,” said Dr. Fadul, who says it’s important to prepare weeks before you take any flight or plan to leave town.

“Your precautions need to start at least 2 weeks before your trip. You need to make sure you’re staying away from people, you’re isolating as much as possible to avoid contracting covid before your trip.”

When it comes to getting through security, TSA has tried to eliminate as much physical contact as possible. Typically you would hand your boarding pass and ID to the TSA officer, but now In many airports you’re able to scan yourself in. Keep in mind you may be asked to briefly remove your mask so they can see your full face and confirm that you are who you say you are.

Boarding a plane will be a little different, too.

Instead of boarding by group number, airlines are having people board by row number. And they’re boarding back to front to avoid having people walk by those already seated.

You’re handed a hand sanitizing wipe when you step on the plane, and you no longer choose your snacks. The flight attendants will hand out pre-packaged bag that includes water and a few food items.

Airline and airport employees all wear masks, gloves, face shields, or a combination.

If you’re worried about social distancing on a plane, some airlines like Delta are still not selling middle seat tickets and will continue that practice into 2021. Southwest plans to roll that policy back in December. Alway remember to check with your individual airline when you book your tickets.

If you need more information, TSA has all kinds of tips and information on its website to help you navigate the holidays.

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