Here’s what you should be doing if you absolutely have to travel right now


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With travel restrictions being introduced worldwide in attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the message has never been clearer: now is the time to stay put, stay healthy, and practice social distancing. Remaining at home isn’t an option for everyone, though. For some, traveling during COVID-19—either for work or for a family emergency—is simply a necessity.

In early March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory cautioning anyone considering domestic travel within the United States to consider how necessary it really is. “Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded settings, particularly closed-in settings with little air circulation, if there are people in the crowd who are sick,” reads the CDC website. “This may include settings such as conferences, public events (like concerts and sporting events), religious gatherings, public spaces (like movie theatres and shopping malls), and public transportation (like buses, metro, trains).”

Still, life goes on. And you may find yourself needing to book a flight to see a loved one, fulfill something that’s required of you at work, or take off for some other emergency. Should that be the case, first head to the CDC’s website to read through its six-item travel checklist included in the advisory (which will tell you whether you really need to travel). Then, if you’re still sure you need to get on that plane, ride the subway, or hop a bus to another city or state, make sure you’re following these five best practices to keep yourself—and others—healthy.

If you’re traveling during COVID-19 out of necessity, make sure to do these 5 things

1. Don’t touch your face—specifically your eyes, nose, and mouth

Here’s a not-at-all-fun fact for you: Most of us touch our faces about 600 times a day. To keep yourself from pawing your complexion on the subway car or on the plane, Selena Snow, PhD, a licensed psychologist with advanced training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, recommends using a strongly-scented lotion that will clue you to STOP touching or keeping your hands preoccupied—perhaps with knitting or a book—during the flight.

2. WASH YOUR HANDS

Okay, you know this one, but this list would be incomplete without it. “Sounds banal, but soap really is an amazing weapon that we all have in our homes,” tweeted Karen Fleming, PhD, a scientist and professor at Johns Hopkins University “This is because coronavirus is an ‘enveloped’ virus, which means that it has an outer lipid membrane layer. Washing your hands with soap and water has the ability to ‘dissolve’ this greasy fatty layer and kill the virus.”

On a plane, you may not want to go to the bathroom to scrub your skin (I understand, completely). In that case, make sure to bring your hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol and apply it often.

3. STAY 6 FEET AWAY FROM EVERYONE, if possible

Normally, this would be a near impossibility in a world where flights seem to be constantly overbooked. Currently, though, many flights are operating at “ghost plane” capacity. So don’t be shy: Ask your flight attendant if you can move seats and make the six foot rule a thing. Public transportation is, likewise, pretty darn empty. Take a whole row to yourself.

4. Clean all your surfaces before and after your travels

Saskia Popescu, PhD, MPH, senior hospital infection prevention epidemiologist at HonorHealth, previously told Well+Good that COVID-19 may live on surfaces for up to nine days. When you get where you’re going, disinfect everything from your phone to your jeans.

5. Make it abundantly clear to those around you that you’ve traveled

Whomever you’re coming into contact with at your chosen destination deserves to know the decisions you made to get there—and make their own choices for their health and well-being. The White House is now urging everyone to avoid groups larger than 10 people, so make sure the folks you’re meeting up with know that you’ve just been on a plane, train, or bus. And don’t take it personally if that information means they don’t want to hang out with you at this very moment.

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