With vaccines becoming more available, the CDC has released new guidance for those who have received the vaccine. On the positive side, it makes clear that, once fully vaccinated, more families can meet together and grandparents can see their grandkids. It also stresses that in public and group settings, known proven protocols like masks and distancing still make sense. But after outlining the flexibility that the vaccine brings, the document then states “You should still delay domestic and international travel.”
This is highly curious. Travel has been safe, with proper precautions, even before the vaccines, as long as someone had a place to go. The broad CDC statement suggests that a fully-vaccinated family shouldn’t take a one hour car trip to see fully-vaccinated relatives. This kind of far-reaching statement does not help people get their lives back in order, is not scientifically based, and could encourage those on the fence about the vaccine to just not bother with it.
The travel industry has taken a big economic hit as people justifiably sheltered in place while the pandemic spread. Now that the reality of getting a vaccine has become more real for many, the travel industry has reason to hope for a busy summer with families and friends getting together. Enough people have gotten the vaccine that the CDC felt it appropriate to outline what they felt this meant in practical terms. This is when the travel industry, and its hundreds of thousands of employees, felt betrayed.
The TSA is regularly checking over one million people a day now as people are flying, and some of these people never stopped. Airlines have been aggressive to show how safe flying can be, being early adopters of requiring masks onboard and creating multiple media events when customers didn’t comply. The CDC has not stated that an airplane is a dangerous place for virus transmission, and has not linked transmissions to inside an airplane since the mask mandates have been in place. Harvard statisticians even stated that being in an airplane could be safer than grocery stores and restaurants. But the CDC didn’t specifically call out airplanes, so were they talking about driving?
The point is that the moving on its own does nothing to further the virus spread or slow down the recovery. As indidvuals, we can make smart decisions to protect ourselves and others by continuing to wear masks and washing our hands even after we are vaccinated. Somehow, however, the CDC says that travel should be suspended when the travel itself is not creating any problems. They must be presuming that if we travel, we will somehow forget to wear our mask or wash our hands, or throw caution to wind about getting in a big mob of people. This “what happens Vegas stays in Vegas” attitude is not how real people travel. Once vaccinated, I could have my neighbors over for dinner according to the guidance. But I should not drive to someone’s house for that same dinner, because travel is not recommended.
There are those excited about this vaccine, and still some people firm in not getting one. What about the people on the fence? One of the most positive things we could do to encourage that group to the take the right vaccine decision is to show just how liberating the vaccine can and will ultimately be. Telling people that, despite the vaccine, they should not travel, could create a “why bother, then” attitude to some on the fence. There are good reasons to bother, and the CDC can guide in that direction while keeping people safe. The plane and the car are not transmission places.
If all the vaccine does is let you step outside your front door until enough people are vaccinated, this is overkill and not even in the intent of the CDC document. That’s why the “no travel” recommendation is so out of context. They are conflating travel with bad and risky behaviors, and there is absolutely no data or study that suggests these two things are linked. I traveled a few times over the last eight months and every time was very cautious. I felt I knew what to do to protect myself and others thanks to CDC and the good guidance they have provided. Now that I am vaccinated, can I really do no more and in fact travel less? Common sense says this statement was put in as a throw-in without much thought or consideration. It is large unprotected gatherings and risky behavior that have spread this virus, not being in a car or an airplane to get someplace. Get vaccinated, and go take a safe trip!