COVID-19 Considerations for Holiday Travels

Posted from the Vermont Department of Health (VDOH) – November 6, 2020

Holiday Travel and Gathering

Vermonters have done well to adapt their lives to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and our data shows that what we’re doing works. But as the holiday season approaches, we all need to consider our plans carefully, especially when it comes to travel and gathering. Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. We want to help people understand the risk of travel and then make decisions that are best for their family, the school community, and Vermont.

If you are planning to travel out of state or host visitors for the Thanksgiving break, please click here for the Vermont Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidance and prevention tips. 

Travel Questions to Consider

If you are thinking of traveling:

• Where are you going? Start by looking at Vermont’s Cross-State Travel Map and find your destination. The map is updated every Tuesday, so it will change, but you can start watching to see how the “colors” on the map are trending.

o Green means you can go and do not need to quarantine when you return. Green does not mean there’s no risk, so you still need to practice prevention measures.

o Red or yellow locations require quarantine for all family members who have traveled when you return to Vermont. Quarantine means staying home and away from other people for 14 days. Vermonters can also choose to quarantine for 7 days and then get tested. You will need to remain in quarantine until you receive a negative test result. (Check the Health Department website in advance for testing availability).

o You may also need to check quarantine requirements for your destination since every state’s rules are slightly different.

• How will you quarantine when you return? Plan ahead, making sure you can cancel any appointments, get food for your family and care for children at home.

• Can you be flexible and cancel your trip last-minute in case someone in your family is sick? Consider purchasing refundable tickets and reserve lodging that offers a free cancellation policy.

• Do you live with someone at higher risk or are you visiting someone who is higher risk? If the virus spreads to them, they are at increased risk of severe illness.

• Have you gotten your flu shot? Get a flu shot for everyone in your family who is age 6 months and older. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be fully protective.

• Have you had “the COVID talk”? Talk to the people you plan to visit and discuss your comfort with COVID-19 prevention steps, like when people will wear masks, how you will stay 6 feet apart, and whether you can keep gatherings small. Prepare for these conversations potentially to be difficult and require negotiation.

If people are coming to visit you:

• Look at Vermont’s cross-state travel map to find where your visitors are traveling from. The map is updated every Tuesday, so it will change, but you can start watching to see how the “colors” on the map are trending.

• Tell your visitors about the Vermont requirements for quarantining. They will need to quarantine at the place they are staying for 14 days. Or they can quarantine for 7 days, get a COVID-19 test, and end their quarantine after receiving a negative test result. (Check the Health Department website in advance for testing availability). Visitors can also complete these quarantine options in their home state if they are driving to Vermont in their personal vehicle.

• If you are hosting travelers under quarantine in your home, you do not also need to quarantine. But if you’re sharing space, you should stay at least 6 feet from the people under quarantine. People under quarantine should wear a mask in common spaces. They should eat in separate spaces and use separate bathrooms. Be sure to disinfect commonly touched surfaces, and check yourself for symptoms for 14 days.

• Discuss your expectations for visitors during their stay. Will people wear masks, stay 6-feet apart, keep the gatherings small?

• Ask your visitors to get a flu shot two weeks before they arrive.

Talk about the challenges:

Most people are growing tired of the pandemic and the lifestyle changes they have made to stay safe and healthy. It is hard to balance our risk of getting sick with COVID-19 and our human need for in-person connection with family and friends, especially during the holidays. We are asking the school community—including students, parents/caregivers, and staff —to make hard decisions about whether to participate in holiday traditions with loved ones that they may have not seen in person for months.

People need to weigh their risk and then decide how much risk they are comfortable with. Our individual choices can profoundly impact the health of our community in this pandemic.

Last March, when schools and the economy shut down, we did not have choices about where we could go. Now we have more options, but making these decisions can affect others. It’s easy to let our guard down among friends and family — people we trust. But the fact is, we don’t know — and they may not know — if they’ve been exposed to the virus, and it’s those times that the virus can spread very easily.

We have been able to re-open the economy and go back to school in person, which is critical for the social and emotional development of children. When children attend school in-person their parents and caregivers can go to work and keep the economy growing. But our current situation is fragile, and can change easily. By making safer choices, we can help Vermont stay open together.

Alternatives to travel or hosting family:

This year, many people will choose not to travel and holidays will likely be smaller than usual. Sharing a meal virtually is not the same as celebrating with family and friends in person, but it could be good enough to get us through 2020. Families may also choose to gather with friends or family in Vermont with whom they already interact frequently. This is one way to lower the risk of infection while keeping social connections.