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Managing Travel Risk This Winter


December 21, 2020
Categories: Safety, Travel Tips

Although case numbers are increasing, the pandemic panic of March is largely absent. Schools aren’t closing their doors; in fact, many discontinued their hybrid remote option and students are back in the classroom full time. Businesses remain open and travelers are still traveling; TSA passenger numbers hovered at 1 million for a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday, about 40% of last year’s volume but a jump of 10% over summer travel numbers.

Work, school and travel can still be unpredictable, but many of us have settled into a familiar routine: mask on, six feet apart, wash hands. The CDC has reduced quarantine requirements from 14 to 10 days and 5 days with a negative RT-PCR test.

Improved treatments are working and health care providers have more experience treating the virus. A study by NYU Grossman School of Medicine found the death rate in those hospitalized with coronavirus-related illness had dropped from 27% to about 3%.

Hope is on the horizon with increased availability of rapid PCR tests, vaccines in final stages of testing and early stages of availability and better research on contagion factors.

After nine months of precautions, protocols and planning, how can travelers mitigate risks this winter?

The Strength Of Family Traditions

Coronavirus has already changed our habits more than we realize. It has reshaped the way we shop (more online and less in store), celebrate (less in person and more virtual) and travel (less international and more domestic).

Right now, there’s a half chance of coronavirus affecting the holiday season. According to a September Morning Consult survey, 47% report their family’s usual holiday get-togethers will be cancelled (53% will occur as usual). A survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Association found respondents will travel for family events (55% wedding, birthdays, anniversary or family reunion) and holidays (43% Thanksgiving and 50% Christmas).

“We are traveling to Park City, Utah to see family and ski a few days,” said a Global Rescue member from Texas. “This will be a wonderful white Christmas with family.”

“My husband and I are in our mid-late 60s and, being extremely cautious about COVID-19, we haven’t made any travel plans and don’t plan to until something changes,” says a Global Rescue member from New York. “But we also don’t like the cold weather so we’re contemplating a trip south during the winter if we can come up with a safe way to do it.”

Travel Safety Is A Priority

When travelers feel comfortable to venture away from home, transportation providers stand at the ready.

Airlines are introducing COVID-19 testing options prior to boarding. United Air requires all passengers take a COVID-19 rapid test before a flight on the San Francisco/Hawaii route. You can take the test on the day of the flight ($250 right at the airport) or mail in a test ($80). JetBlue provides an at-home testing option, giving travelers their results within 72 hours. The test, priced at $143, includes a video conference call to supervise the collection process.

Although travelers have worried about coronavirus contagion on an airplane, studies are finding it is actually a safe way to travel during the pandemic. An October study by the U.S. Department of Defense found 99.99% of particles were filtered out of the cabin within six minutes due to fast air circulation, downward air ventilation and the filtration systems on the aircraft.

Vehicle miles are on the rise. In April 2020, travel decreased by 40% compared to the year before but by September 2020 the year-to-year decline in miles was only 8.6%, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

It’s not just because 73% of Americans admit they’ve used their vehicle to escape the boundaries of home for a scenic drive during the pandemic. Driving is typically safer than flying from a COVID perspective, mainly because you can make the rules for the safety of your car — and you’ll never have this much control over your environment on a plane.

The tricky part, moving forward, will be navigating the coronavirus protocols state by state and country by country. State and federal governments can enact emergency rules and legislation at any time to protect the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Global Rescue intelligence experts are tracking quarantines, lockdowns and outbreaks across the globe, providing updated information to domestic and international travelers in the Coronavirus Report.

New Safety Programs Will Help

What will help travelers feel safe and confident again? Country wide initiatives with documented, standardized procedures for all travelers. Germany was one of the first countries to institute mandatory COVID-19 testing for all visitors from high-risk areas. Airports offer pop-up testing centers and test results are fast and free.

Aruba offers an Embarkation and Disembarkation program. All non-resident travelers are required to obtain an online travel qualification using this system prior to being granted permission for boarding. Upon arrival, authorities screen and test visitors for COVID-19.

The new Jamaica Cares program provides visitors access to traveler protection and emergency medical services, including COVID-19. Visitors to Jamaica pay a low mandatory fee and automatically receive a broad set of travel risk and crisis management services designed to minimize the effects of COVID-19.

“Jamaica Cares starts with medical advisory services for each individual traveling to Jamaica. For those who are symptomatic, it includes access to rapid testing, case management services and, ultimately, evacuation, transport and repatriation back to the individual’s home country, should it be needed,” said Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards. “It really is an end-to-end solution.”

Travel safety programs, like Jamaica Cares, are critical to mitigating the spread of coronavirus and providing travelers with a new level of confidence during the pandemic.

“This is where everything starts: with people having the peace of mind to travel,” Richards said. “We know the desire is there, it has been there a long time, and it is building. But people need to feel confident their safety and well-being is going to be taken care of during this crisis and beyond.”

Global Rescue has been providing medical and evacuation services to members throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but recently expanded its membership services to include local field rescue within 100 miles of home — as well as everything beyond 100 miles. No matter where you are this holiday season, a travel protection services membership will ensure you and your loved ones are ill or injured and are unable to get to safety on your own. Click here to learn more.


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