COVID-19 Q&A: Learning to Live with COVID-19 during vacations and gatherings

March 1, 2022
Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Division of Public Health administrator

Things are looking better on the COVID-19 front than they have in a long time, and we’re all ready to shed some of those precautions we’ve been taking for so long. However, the virus is still circulating, and we need to continue to manage our risk.

It’s important to remember that the virus will continue to mutate as it circulates even at low levels in communities, and the precautions you take in  some situations might not be effective in others. You will need to weigh your personal risk and take appropriate precautions. Keeping up to date on COVID-19 vaccines provides the most consistent protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19.

The following are things to keep in mind to stay safe and healthy as we loosen up a bit and plan vacations and gatherings in the months to come.

What are the things I need to know if I’m traveling in the United States?

  • Don’t travel if you are sick.
  • Masks are still required in public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States. Find out more about the requirement here: https://bit.ly/3m68x2R
  • Check the COVID-19 risk at your destination so you know how to pack and the precautions you will have to take: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html
  • If you travel on an airplane, wear a mask and wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol: https://bit.ly/3fauXgJ
  • If you get COVID-19 while traveling, you’ll likely be expected to stay in place until you’re well. The best ways to avoid getting sick while traveling is to make sure you are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and by wearing a mask in public places.

What do I need to know if I am traveling outside the United States?

  • If you’re not sick, and you're planning a trip overseas, make sure you’re up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, and then check the COVID-19 risk at your destination: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
  • Plan ahead: In addition to any testing requirements your destination may have, you'll be required to show a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than one day before returning to the United States.
  • People who have recovered from COVID-19 can safely travel if they tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 90 days and have met criteria to end isolation.
  • Learn more: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html

What should I keep in mind as I plan a gathering?

  • If you want to spend time with people who don’t live with you, gathering outdoors is the safer choice. You are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during outdoor activities, even without the use of masks.
  • Good ventilation can help prevent you from getting and spreading COVID-19.
  • Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Follow the new CDC guidance about community level risk.  If the COVID-19 Community Level where you live is
    • Low
      • Wear a mask based on your personal preference, informed by your personal level of risk.
    • Medium
      • If you are at risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about wearing masks indoors in public places.
      • If you live with or will gather with someone at risk for severe illness, wear a mask when indoors with them.
    • High
      • For those 2 years old or older, wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk (including in K-12 schools and other community settings).
      • If you are at risk for severe illness, wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection.
  • If you are around people and don’t know if they are vaccinated or vulnerable to severe COVID-19 outcomes, you can lower the overall risk of spreading COVID-19 between you and them by making sure you're up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and wearing a good quality mask.
  • More things to consider: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/gatherings.html

Elke Shaw-Tulloch is the administrator of the Division of Public Health, and the state’s Public Health Officer. She has worked for the department since 1996 and was promoted to division administrator in 2012. Since February 2020, she has focused a majority of her time on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 

COVID-19 resources:

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.