ROANOKE, Va. – Summertime is here and for many Virginians, that means taking some much-needed time off for a vacation.
While restrictions have eased and parts of Virginia are seeing a decline in coronavirus cases, southwest Virginia’s numbers are on the rise, leaving some wondering if and where it’s safe to go on vacation.
Dr. Molly O’Dell, the director of communicable disease control with the Virginia Department of Health’s Roanoke City-Alleghany Districts, said it’s OK to take a break from work or school, but people can’t take a break from washing their hands, social distancing or wearing face coverings.
“I think Virginians can go on their travel vacations, but they just need to use the same good practices that they’ve been using at home,” said O’Dell.
Florida, Texas and South Carolina are all seeing a spike. O’Dell and Carilion Clinic’s Chair of Medicine Dr. Paul Skolnik said that Myrtle Beach in particular has been a hotspot. As of Monday morning, more than 100 cases in the Roanoke-Alleghany region have been linked to the popular beach destination.
“We’ve had people traveling to that area, coming back here and then spreading the infection locally,” said Skolnik. “We are clearly having substantial community spread right now.”
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interactive map shows an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the last week across the United States, including in North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
AAA spokesman Morgan Dean told 10 News that vacationers need to plan ahead and take extra precautions. He recommended bringing Ziploc bags to pump gas so people don’t have to touch handles and pack cleaning supplies to sanitize hotel rooms.
“Call ahead to the hotels there. Call ahead to the restaurants,” said Dean. “Check in with the visitors bureau for those areas, just to see what the restrictions are, what attractions are open, what things are closed.”
If you are thinking about traveling, the CDC recommends you ask yourself:
- Is COVID-19 spreading where you’re going or in your community?
- Will you be within 6 feet of others?
- Are you or those you’re traveling with high risk or do you live with someone who’s high risk?
If you do travel, the CDC says know the restrictions and consider the risks of different transportation. The CDC also recommends that people wear face coverings, wash their hands, stay at least 6 feet away from others and get food to-go instead of dining in while traveling.
“There is no ‘no risk’ environment,” said O’Dell. “So we are as safe as we prepare ourselves to be.”