For some homebound travelers yearning for a vacation, the question isn’t whether to book a vacation this year, but when.
Enthusiasm for travel is at its highest point in a year, with 87% of American travelers expected to take a trip this summer, according to a survey conducted last week by travel market research company Destination Analysts.
But is the summer the best time to travel this year, or is it prudent to wait? Medical professionals present several scenarios of how the rest of 2021 may play out.
Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said she expects this summer to have lower infection rates than the winter.
“When I add in the idea that kids 12 and older will also have access to vaccines this summer, the risk to families will continue to drop, allowing for more activities and with lower risk … to all,” she said.
Dr. Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said she thinks there is “a real chance at a summer with much lower rates of disease, however, it means we all have to pull together and do our part” by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, social distancing and practicing hand hygiene.
Vaccinations are important for safe summer travel, said UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s Dr. Anne Rimoin, though she noted they are “no guarantee” against infection.
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As to whether traveling is safe this summer, she said it depends on two factors: vaccinations and variants.
“It all depends upon how many vaccines we get in arms,” Rimoin said. “The variants are more contagious, so … those that are not vaccinated are more easily infected.”
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in April that he expects infection rates to be “really low” in the United States this summer, which will likely result in “a relatively mild fall.”
After that, things may change, he said.
“I think we should be thinking about the late winter,” he said. “I think the overall death and disease from Covid, hopefully, will be diminished, but there’s a chance that it’s going to start to spread again.”
Gottlieb said Covid-19 will “transition this year … from more of a pandemic strain to a seasonal strain.” This, however, could change if variants that can “pierce” prior immunity or vaccines develop, though he noted that “right now we don’t see that on the horizon.”
“I don’t think we’re going to be having holiday parties in the back room of a crowded restaurant on December 20th,” he said. “I think that we’re going to have to do things differently as we get into the winter.”
“But I think that’s going to be a fact of life going forward for a number of years anyway,” said Gottlieb.
Dr. Charles Bailey, medical director for infection prevention at Providence St. Joseph Hospital and Providence Mission Hospital, does not view this summer as a safe period for travel before…