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Mayo: Think ahead before traveling

As COVID-19 cases slow throughout the nation, people’s thoughts are naturally turning to travel this summer.

During a conference call Wednesday, Mayo Clinic doctors laid out what people should keep in mind when planning a trip or even hosting backyard get-togethers.

“When you’re planning to travel, you should really understand what’s going on at your destination,” said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. “Making sure you’re very familiar with recommendations and guidelines of where you’re going.”

In the state of Minnesota, cases of the coronavirus, hospitalizations and deaths continue to retreat. Minnesota Public Radio reported Wednesday the state is seeing new case trends at April 2020 lows.

Just over 66% of residents 16 and older have at least one shot of the vaccine and 62.6% are completely vaccinated.

Trends are likewise going down elsewhere in the United States, but complicating that scenario are COVID-19 variants, particularly the Delta variant.

However, Mayo doctors still feel good about attending functions and traveling if fully vaccinated and the immune system is healthy.

“If you have had a full immunization series and are otherwise healthy, your risk of serious infection from the Delta is really low,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious disease specialist at Mayo. “These vaccines are almost 100 percent effective against death, infection and hospitalization.”

Healthcare professionals are also comfortable with attending outdoor events without a mask if fully immunized, but continue to suggest wearing masks inside crowded areas.

“The idea is to layer,” Poland said. “One layer of protection after another is best to protect yourself.”

Rajapakse also suggested planning carefully for family gatherings or parties at homes, especially with children.

Children 12 and under still can’t have the vaccines. Though it is much less likely for children under 12 to be adversely affected by COVID-19, there is still the chance they can spread it on as well as an outside chance of becoming ill themselves.

“The challenge is younger children that aren’t vaccinated and we’re still recommending precautions for them,” Rajapakse said.

While doctors are optimistic about traveling, they are doing so with a bit of caution, warning that with variants floating around there is a risk of taking a backward step in the fall, especially for those that aren’t vaccinated.

“Particularly those 12 and above and people unvaccinated, we enter into the riskiest time frame of the pandemic because of the variants circulating,” Poland said.

There’s also a risk centered around vaccinations other than those for COVID-19. Rajapakse said that because of COVID-19, vaccinations for illnesses like measles have dropped off.

“Many have fallen behind with routine vaccinations,” she said. “We recommend that they are up to date with the other vaccines.”

The simple theme for now, even in the shadow of warnings of possible resurgence in the future, is that travel is safe if precautions are taken.

“At least right now we are at historically low levels in terms of case loads as a nation,” Poland said. “If you’re fully vaccinated and healthy, I think you can travel.”

 

Boosters?

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are looking at whether booster shots may be required in the future.

Poland said testing is being done on three different options, including one they are calling a late booster that would be administered nine to 12 months after the original shot.

However, Poland also said that as of right now there is nothing concrete in terms of recommendations.

“They are doing the right thing looking into this — tests and what safety would be,” he said. “At this point there are no recommendations of boosters this fall. I do not see how we would get to a recommendation at this point.”

Poland did say that it might be possible that boosters would be recommended for specific groups of people, including those with lowered immune systems.