San Diego

Doctor's Tip for Safe Holiday Travel: Don't

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If you’re looking for advice from a doctor about staying safe from the coronavirus during holiday weekend travels, the short answer is stay at home.

“This is not a time to let your guard down,” otolaryngologist Dr. Paul Schalch Lepe said. “I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade or ruin anyone’s vacation.”

Staying indoors all weekend might be tough due to the incoming heatwave, but if you must venture out of the house, Dr. Schalch Lepe, whose expertise is focused on the ears, nose, and throat, suggests trying your hardest to stay outside in an open space, like a not-so-crowded beach.

“In an open space, the air is not recirculating. You have the ocean breeze, and at a higher temperature, the virus is a little bit less likely to survive for longer periods of time, so you have that going for you,” Dr. Schalch Lepe said.

But, just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. The risk of contracting COVID-19 at the beach is still present if it’s overcrowded, and if people are ignoring public health orders.

“If it’s crowded and people are not wearing masks and people are close to each other then it’s not a safe space,” he said.

If your getaway requires a night’s stay away from home, Dr. Schalch Lepe recommends hotels over vacation rentals.

“There might be more of an inconsistency [with vacation rentals] because you have private owners renting their properties, so you don’t really know if they’re following strict.

High-touch surfaces outside of your own home do bring another element of risk to any trip, but Dr. Schalch Lepe is mostly concerned with crowds and gatherings in enclosed spaces.

‘There is somewhat of a risk there [with high-touch surfaces] but I think aside from the fact that we can wash out hands constantly and use hand sanitizers, like wearing our masks, it’s more a concern about enclosed spaces with proximity of other people where air is being recirculated,” he reiterated.

With all that said, Dr. Schalch Lepe’s first piece of advice is to stay home. And while he’s sorry, he’s also not sorry.

“Here goes another holiday weekend that’s going to come and go, and you’re going to miss maybe your trip you were planning or whatever you were going to do, but at the same time, if we don’t do anything to stop the pandemic then it’s going to go and on and on and on,” he said.

Remember, Dr. Schalch Lepesaid, even if you’re not traveling out of the county, visitors are coming into town and you’ll want to protect yourself from them, too, – by maintaining physical distance and wearing your mask if you do leave your house.

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