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How to Travel Safely During COVID-19

Don't forget your photo ID, or your N95 mask!

Over 13 million people have been affected by the coronavirus in the U.S. and cases are rising in nearly every state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued warnings of a "critical phase" as groups now begin to gather for the winter holidays. And while it's best to stay home, some people have to travel. In fact, nearly seven million travelers hit the skies in the week before Thanksgiving. Though that's less than previous years, it was a massive increase in potential exposure and likely will lead to more positive cases. But if you end up in a position where you must travel, here are some ways you can protect yourself:

1. Get Tested Before and After You Travel

Testing is key in knowing where or if you've been infected with coronavirus. While it's certainly not perfect as people can potentially be infected and still have a negative result, it's a strong safeguard. "Testing gives you a short window of clearance," explains Leo Nissola, M.D., a San Francisco-based medical expert and immunotherapy scientist. "Get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test five to seven days before and after you travel and, if need be, quarantine in between."

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2. Be Armed with the Right Gear

We've all heard it by now, but wearing a mask and washing your hands are the easiest ways to protect yourself. When you travel, it's important to follow those guidelines and arm yourself with additional safety gear. You should carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes with you to wipe down tray tables, armrests and hotel remote controls. If you have a spare N95, it would be time to whip it out. Plus, some nasal sprays like Halodine have generated reports of killing the virus in less than 15 seconds. "The more layers of protection you add, the odds of getting infected decreases," says Nissola.

3. Plan to Limit Public Contact

Yes, you have to travel and move beyond the safety of your home. But you can still reduce exposure by creating a plan that keeps you away from others as much as possible. "Social distancing is key to helping to stay safe," says Nissola. "If you have to travel, bring your own food, a refillable water bottle to help the environment, avoid congested areas in the airport and plan to make as few stops as possible when on the road."