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Q: Is it safe to travel domestically?

A: Travel does increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the safest way to reduce those chances. This would be a great year for a staycation.

However, if you do decide to travel, there are several things you should consider.

* Where are you going? Monitor reports in the area to which you are planning to travel. Avoid densely populated areas, especially those with high levels of disease spread.

* With whom are you traveling? Older adults and people with underlying chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk for serious illness. They should take more precautions, and I would strongly urge them to stay home. If you are planning to travel but live with someone at high risk, you should take that into consideration, too.

Do not travel if you or someone traveling with you is sick, or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

* How are you traveling? Each form of travel presents unique challenges. Air travel requires you to spend lots of time in lines and in close contact with other people. Social distancing can be difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others for an extended period of time. Bus or train travel also involves sitting near others in a confined space for extended periods of time. Car or RV travel may mean less exposure, but stopping for gas, food or restroom breaks exposes you to other people and surfaces.

If you are staying in a hotel or other commercial lodging, check on their policies for COVID-19 protection, and avoid public gathering places such as dining areas, lounges, business centers, gyms and pools.

If you travel, be sure to follow the same steps to protect yourself and your travel companions that you would at home. Wash your hands frequently, bring enough hand sanitizer to last your entire trip and always wear a mask when you are in public places. Consider bringing food and water with you to minimize your need to stop for meals. Follow CDC guidance on how to clean and disinfect your travel lodgings. Also, be sure to check state and local travel restrictions. While you are traveling, a state could impose a shelter-in-place order, mandatory quarantines or even border closure. You should be checking for updates during your travel.

The CDC has many other helpful suggestions on this topic at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html. However, during this pandemic I would urge you to reconsider any plans for travel to keep you and your family safe.

Dr. Jay Sizemore is the medical director of infection prevention at Erlanger Health System, the CMO at Cempa Community Care and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

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Contributed Photo / Dr. Jay Sizemore
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