you’re planning a late summer getaway to wine country. Maybe your loved ones
are heading off to college for a study abroad program. Or possibly your boss
decided it’s time to restart domestic, even international, business travel
again. No matter what the reason, people have been traveling at steadily
increasing volumes during the late spring and summer, based on TSA’s airport
screening data. But the Delta variant may be changing that trend.
variant of coronavirus is making news headlines, and, unfortunately, some of
the reporting is uneven and unnecessarily contributing to traveler confusion
about whether they should take trips and, if they do, how to minimize risk and
variant is twice as contagious as previous strains of the disease. But the
available scientific data indicate COVID-19 vaccinated people and those who
have been infected and subsequently recovered are far less likely to catch
coronavirus in any form, including Delta.
recent data indicate that all western approved vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna,
Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca – are highly effective at protecting
against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including the Delta variant.
vaccine was 92 percent effective at fighting the Delta variant, but the
vaccine’s effectiveness fell to 90 percent, 85 percent and 78 percent after 30,
60 and 90 days, respectively, according to a recent study. In another study,
researchers found the effectiveness of Moderna’s vaccine against infection from
the Delta variant was 76 percent.
have received the J&J vaccine should be confident they have a high level of
protection against hospitalization and severe disease,” says Erika Reategui
Schwarz, MD, an infectious disease specialist and assistant professor of
medicine and hospital medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in
New York City and an investigator on the initial J&J clinical trial.
are sorting out whether the Delta strain produces more severe illness in people
compared to the original virus. “Many scientists say they don’t know yet. Early
information about the severity of Delta included a study from Scotland that
showed the Delta variant was about twice as likely as Alpha to result in
hospitalization in unvaccinated individuals, but other data has shown no
significant difference,” according to a report by Yale Medicine.
pandemic precautions, like masking, social distancing and being outside, are
still wise measures to follow when you’re traveling. “We’re actually telling
people a lot of the same things we’ve always told them, it’s just that now
they’re a bit more willing to listen,” said Catherine Shearer, owner of H+I
Adventures and Global Rescue Safe Travel Partner.
contracting or spreading the virus during air travel, people should continue to
mask and physically distance in airport terminals, screening and security
areas, at the gates and on the jetway.
different. Passengers cannot socially distance on board a jet, but masking is
still required. Travelers should know that the onboard jet air filtration is
fast and effective against bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19.
revealed the chances of becoming infected with COVID-19 while wearing a mask
and flying on a modern, commercial airline is about the same as being struck by
lightning: about one chance in half a million. Air filtration and recycling on
a jet are fast and effective due to the use of powerful air circulation fans
and high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters.
filters are 99.9% effective or greater in removing particulate contaminants,
including viruses like COVID-19, and bacteria and fungi from recirculated air.
The air flows from the ceiling to the floor and creates completely new air in
the cabin every six minutes,” said Denise Stecconi, a commercial pilot who
flies Boeing 737s for Alaska Airlines.
comes to destinations, domestic or international, travelers should look at
hotspot trend data to identify places to avoid, but they should also be aware
that viruses mutate.
must remember that coronavirus has a vote since new mutations are possible.
Hedge your destination bets by picking outdoor getaway spots where COVID-19 and
Delta variant trends matter less, like remote camping, horseback riding, ranch
or seashore vacations and hiking. Go where you can be outside and away from
crowds,” said Kent Webber, senior manager, Intelligence Services at Global
Rescue and a former senior intelligence operations officer in the Office of the
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence at the Pentagon.
experts, like Amber D’Souza, professor of epidemiology for the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health, agrees Delta variant infection rates are
getting worse, but she adds that “in evaluating now whether to go on trips, if
individuals are vaccinated, risk does remain low if you take appropriate
precautions. I think it still is okay to consider taking those trips.”
vaccination rates, dwindling vaccine-hesitancy, increasing recovery from
infections, FDA vaccine approvals and emerging pharmaceutical development of
inoculations for children are all contributing to traveler enthusiasm about the
return of travel. But that alone won’t be enough for the global travel and
tourism industry to recover from the economic damage caused by the pandemic,
especially as the Delta variant sparks disruption and confusion.
governments must match, even exceed, traveler enthusiasm with institutional
commitments to prevent another disease from causing so much damage. Business
and government leaders must commit to advancing policies for new technology
capable of disease detection.
global resources to prevent the spread of deadly diseases requires
international cooperation. Travelers and travel industry leaders can support
the creation of a dedicated international task force to track disease
outbreaks. It’s a foundational element to include as part of the travel
industry’s ability to minimize the impact of and recovery from future
Article written by Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue. He serves on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce and is a Global Member of the World Travel and Tourism Council.