Summer is here and with it, multiple opportunities for gatherings and celebrations. The period between Father’s Day and Labor Day is also typically peak tourism season, but the global pandemic adds a layer of complexity to any travel plans. To ensure an enjoyable and safe summer, MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care Director of Clinical Care Innovation and Excellence Stephanie Cowan recommends that people follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and use common sense. Traveling? Here are some tips to keep your family healthy while enjoying summer 2021.
Avoid traveling to high-risk destinations. Because the situation is fluid, check the CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination webpage to discover the risk level for your intended visit. “Continue watching the trends to decide how safe it is to travel to a given area,” says Cowan. “The landscape is rapidly changing. We’re recommending that people get vaccinated, finish their series, and then wait two weeks before traveling to be safe.”
Do your homework. Requirements such as proof of vaccination or COVID-19 test results will vary depending on where you go, so it’s a good idea to research in advance. Within the U.S., Hawaii and Alaska still require testing to visit. Some countries and states ask for proof of a negative test result within the last five days, others with the past 72 hours. “If you’ve tested positive within the last 90 days, we don’t re-test you, we just write you a letter,” Cowan explains. The type of test required may also vary. Some may ask for RT-PCR results while others will allow different testing methods.
Use best practices for hygiene and social distancing. While traveling, it’s important to maintain strict hygiene protocols such as frequent handwashing and wearing a mask at airports. “We know that travel increases your chance of spreading COVID,” Cowan notes. “We want to make sure that people are still socially distancing. If you become ill, quarantine yourself.”
Stay home if you’re not feeling well. Those who are staying home may want to gather with friends and family for holidays such as the 4th of July or simple barbecues. If you haven’t been tested and are experiencing symptoms, err on the side of caution, Cowan advises. “If you’re experiencing any respiratory issues, such as a cough or sore throat, don’t go out. You want to keep everyone around you safe.” On the other hand, if you’ve been vaccinated you can now gather with others unmasked, according to the most recent guidelines released by the CDC.
Go outside. Outdoor events are generally safer than indoor ones. Fortunately, Washington State is more hospitable than many parts of the country during the summer months for outdoor gatherings. When planning time with loved ones, consider going camping, taking a hike or hosting a patio party rather than spending time inside where decreased ventilation means a higher probability of spreading disease
Avoid crowds. Whatever the occasion, when it comes to the number of guests, less is more, according to the CDC. The more households included in the mix, the greater the risk of contracting COVID-19. Again, bear that in mind as you think about what summer activities you want to plan.
Don’t serve buffets or finger foods. Deciding what food to serve and how to serve it can also be a challenge. Buffet-style meals or any common dips/snacks such as potato chips or finger foods increase the possibility of cross-contamination. “If you can eliminate that, it will be better,” says Cowan. “In Washington State, we’ve seen our rates plateau, but we haven’t seen them drop yet. We still want to be very vigilant about not taking unnecessary risks.”
Get tested before you travel. Many people visit Indigo Urgent Care clinics to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling both because it’s required at their destination and because they’re visiting people who are considered vulnerable. “We see a lot of people who are going to visit at-risk family members and want to be tested before they go, even though it’s not a mandate,” says Cowan. “Maybe they have a runny nose and want to make sure it’s just allergies.”
If you would like a test for travel, and you do not have symptoms or recent COVID exposure, you can use Indigo Online Care’s video visit to consult with a medical provider. They will then refer you to a nearby Indigo clinic for a test.
As more of the population gets vaccinated, guidelines may change, but in the meantime, it’s important to pay attention, especially if you’re planning to travel. “We’re in this emerging place that is so exciting where we may be able to safely get together,” says Cowan. “It’s going to feel a lot more comfortable when we see our rates drop rather than just plateau. That will feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”
MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care has convenient locations in Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater. Check their website for the latest information about COVID testing before coming in. For treatment of other minor illnesses and injuries, schedule an appointment online or simply walk in for care.