Officials warn not to travel yet, even if vaccinated

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 6:53 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Many people are going on spring break trips or planning summer vacations with COVID-19 vaccinations increasing, but health officials are warning it is too soon to get back to normal activities.

More than 500,000 West Virginians have received at least one dose of vaccine, and that is giving people the confidence to reschedule cancelled vacations from the past year or book new trips. National Travel and Yeager Airport have seen increased demand, with flights returning to the schedule and cruise companies preparing to set sail again in a few months.

“A good fall and then going into 2022, that’s when we are seeing most of the people rebooking to,” National Travel CEO Ted Lawson said. “Simply, they want to be safe in making sure it is open, but the vaccine has changed the psychology of the public tremendously.”

Lawson said many airlines are requiring a passport, verification of COVID vaccination and recent negative COVID test to travel internationally. He is expecting those restrictions to remain going forward, including the introduction of a separate “COVID passport” to prove vaccination.

Lawson and other travel industry leaders are pushing for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to change its current travel guidelines by May to allow people to travel if they have been vaccinated. With COVID-19 cases increasing due to mutant strains, the CDC came out this week and once again stressed how important it is for people to not travel until more of the population is vaccinated.

“We know this is a virus that is different than the viruses that we have seen,” West Virginia COVID-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said about the U.K. and other strains that are hospitalizing most people right now. “It is one that has a much higher ability of spreading infection, even in younger people, and making younger people much more sick.”

“We’re hoping to be able to buy ourselves more time, to get more people in all age categories vaccinated in West Virginia, which would really help us in the middle to long term,” Marsh continued.

He understands that people are tired of the pandemic and lockdowns implemented to stop the spread of the virus, but said that things can get much better if people wait a couple more months to travel to prevent another wave of the virus now.

Marsh said West Virginia should have enough vaccine to reach widespread community immunity by the end of May, making it critical that people get vaccinated as soon as they can, as well as continue to wear a mask and follow other guidelines until then.

If you do have to travel, Marsh recommends staying in a small group, keeping a social distance and sanitizing.

“We’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, mostly because of the vaccines that are available to us,” Marsh said. “It is really important that we not drop our guard here at the last moment because this pandemic is certainly not over, and we are certainly not out of the woods yet.”

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