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Driving across the country in a pandemic

Thinking about traveling during the pandemic? Before heading out, there’s a lot to think about, including:

  • Do you have risk factors for severe COVID-19, such as advanced age or chronic medical conditions?
  • What about your co-travelers’ health and risk factors? Are your co-travelers part of your household or tight social circle?
  • Is the virus spreading in the places you’re going?
  • Who are you going to see along the way, and what’s their health risk profile?
  • If you get sick while traveling, will healthcare be available? And do you have the supports you need in case you have to quarantine for two weeks when you return home — or in a state you’ll be staying in?

Depending on your answers, you might decide it’s better to stay home! Or you may decide the risks are acceptable given some preparation and precautions, as we recently did.

Fly or drive?

“Please be careful when you drive out of the airport today, as you begin the most dangerous part of your trip.” Ever hear a flight attendant say that when your plane lands? It suggests that driving is riskier than the flight you just took. And the statistics support that.

But this may not be true during a pandemic. Tight seating and exposure to lots of people whose behavior you can’t control might be riskier than driving between cities. For many, driving may be safer than flying precisely because you have more control over potentially risky exposures.

We just drove from Denver to Boston. We chose to drive rather than fly because we’d be traveling with our large dog. Yes, he could have traveled in the cargo hold, but let’s just say that option was vetoed. Having just made the reverse trip from Boston to Denver in January, right before the pandemic began, it’s fair to say the return trip was quite different.

Preparing for the trip

We carefully planned our route, choosing stopping points that had open hotels (some were reserved for healthcare workers and first responders) and making reservations at a chain that had a reputation for being particularly conscientious about COVID-19 safety. Fortunately, many hotels are taking a number of steps to keep their lodgers safe during the pandemic, as a recent article in Forbes notes.

Then we loaded the car up with

  • hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, paper towels, and spray disinfectant
  • food and water, so we could avoid stopping at restaurants
  • supplies to allow bathroom breaks in the woods, in case we could not find suitable public restrooms
  • masks
  • the dog (of course), along with his food, toys, and bed.

Heading out into the world

As we left Denver, we knew some potentially risky situations would be hard to avoid. We’d have to stop for gas, walking the dog,

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What do you think?

Written by Shobha


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