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What steps should families who want to visit relatives who are older and/or more vulnerable to complications of COVID-19 take to protect their loved ones?

Families Infection and Spread Staying Safe Travel

A: We all miss our families (yes, us too!) and while navigating how to keep loved ones safe can feel overwhelming, the Nerdy Girls are here to help you make the best decisions possible based on the best information available! Luckily there are some key things (as highlighted in the NPR article below) you can do to make visiting with family (especially grandparents or other individuals that might high-risk) as safe as possible-particularly if travel will be necessary.

First, consider quarantining for 2 weeks leading up to the visit. Why 2 weeks? Individuals usually develop symptoms of COVID-19 in the range of 2-14 days after being infected, so if you haven’t interacted with others outside your household for the 2 weeks leading up to your visit, the chances that you will have been infected and have just not developed symptoms yet (i.e., be in the presymptomatic phase when you can transmit to others) will be very low.

Second, consider driving instead of flying. If you have to travel to visit a family member who is at high risk for complications of COVID-19, your safest bet is to quarantine for the 2 weeks before your trip and drive directly to where you will meet up with family, with no stops on the road (i.e., no opportunities for exposure to the virus). If, however, getting to where family members live will require numerous stops on the road and/or airline travel, it might make more sense to quarantine in a hotel or rental for 2 weeks AFTER you arrive to your destination and then get together with your family members. Check out our previous posts on using public restrooms, staying at a hotel, and traveling by airplane for more information on how to reduce risk in these scenarios.

Third, consider getting tested with the PCR-based test (i.e., the one where a sample is taken with a swab inserted into your nasal cavity) that tells you if you currently have COVID-19. If you test positive (or have any symptoms of COVID-19) in the 2 weeks before your trip, there is NO question that you should cancel your trip and follow the CDC recommendations for isolation (10 days from date of specimen collection for a positive test or symptoms onset AND 3 consecutive days with no fever or respiratory symptoms). If traveling to where a family member lives involves potential exposure en route, and thus you opt to quarantine upon arrival to your destination, you might consider getting a test ~5 days AFTER your arrival. If your test result it positive, you should follow isolation procedures and not visit with family members (and not travel back home until the end of the isolation period). It is important to remember, however, that PCR tests can yield false negative results (see our previous post on this). For that reason, if you think you may have been recently exposed, even if you get a negative test result, the safest course of action is probably to stay quarantined.

Fourth, consider the Nerdy Girl #StaySMART guidelines. If strict quarantining for 2 weeks before or after traveling to visit family members is not realistic for you, think about how you can strategically reduce risk of transmission if and when you get together. Space-keep 6ft of space between you and your loved ones, Mask-keep your masks on, Air-keep it fresh (gathering outside is better than indoors), Restrict-keep it small (limit your social interactions to just the family members you are visiting), Time-keep duration of time you visit short. The more of these practices you apply, the more the risk of transmission will be reduced. As the article also points out, talking to young children ahead of time to help them understand the rules for your visit can be very helpful (see our previous post on for tips on how to encourage kids to wear masks). You may also decide that the safest option for now is to visit remotely via phone, Zoom of Skype and that’s okay too.

More tips can be found in the NPR article here.

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