COVID-19: What to do about your spring break plans

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A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

COLORADO SPRINGS — For most districts in the Pikes Peak Region, spring break, a weeklong, much-anticipated respite from school and work, is just around the corner.

Colorado Springs School District 11 observes spring break from March 23 – March 27 this year

Many families firm up their travel plans well in advance of this annual break, which can mean making a substantial investment in things like airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and more.

Travelers wear protective masks as they walk through in terminal 5 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

But the threat of the novel coronavirus is looming and its effects are uncertain.

On Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health confirmed 15 new presumptive positive cases of the virus, bringing the state total to 49. That number includes one indeterminate case, according to CDPHE, that is being treated as a presumptive positive.

New cases continue to pop up across the country and around the world. And people are wondering whether the vacations they’ve been looking forward to — will be safe.

The CDC is advising the public on how to travel safely during the coronavirus outbreak.

The CDC notes:

CDC does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States. However, cases of COVID-19 have been reported in many states, and some areas are experiencing community spread of the disease. Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19, if there are other travelers with COVID-19.

CDC Website

On Thursday, the CDC’s website listed U.S. cases as follows (including confirmed and presumptive cases since January 21, 2020):

“We want to ensure that the public knows it is still safe to travel,” said Dana Schield with the Colorado Springs Airport. And, she says, the airport is taking every precaution.

COS Airport Holiday Travel.jpg
The Colorado Springs Airport says it’s stepping up cleaning measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We continue to work with local and federal partners, including El Paso County Public Health Department, to ensure that we are following recommended practices in addition to our normal cleaning operations,” Schield said.

Several Colorado Springs-based travelers, though, say they’re not sure.

Josh Williamson has a trip booked through Frontier Airlines, from Colorado Springs to Phoenix. He’d wanted to spend some time with his parents over spring break, and was planning to fly with his four-year-old son. Now, he’s rethinking the entire trip.

“I would rather go have fun in the sun,” Williamson said. “But my family means everything to me. It’s a small sacrifice.”

It’s a disappointment for Aracelis Farmer, as well. She lives in Peyton with her husband and their two daughters. The whole group had been looking forward to a trip to Puerto Rico next week to see family they’ve been away from for longer than two years.

“These things happen and we will reschedule,” Farmer said. “We can’t risk getting everyone sick,” she added. “Both of my parents and most of my extended family are in the high-risk category.”

Farmer also mentioned the added worry of flying home, only to encounter travel bans or quarantines once there.

That’s something to think about, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The organization is telling travelers to come up with a plan in case they come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, or contract the virus themselves:

If you have close contact with someone with COVID-19 during travel, you may be asked to stay home to self-monitor and avoid contact with others for up to 14 days after travel. If you become sick with COVID-19, you may be unable to go to work or school until you’re considered noninfectious. You will be asked to avoid contact with others (including being in public places) during this period of infectiousness.

CDC Website

Kelly Duffy and her family are planning to leave for Mexico next week. “We’re not going to be stupid, but we’re not going to be paranoid either,” she said. “We’re excited about our trip and, so far, there is nothing to indicate there is a threat to us.”

Duffy may be right about that. According to the CDC, “because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes.”

As of Thursday, the CDC had classified Mexico as a country with “sustained community spread of COVID-19”. And “recommends that older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions consider postponing travel” to those countries (the U.S. currently has the same classification). It’s considered an “Alert – Level 2” meaning “people have been infected with the virus” in that area, “but how or where some of them became infected is not known and virus transmission is ongoing.”

Still, many airlines are waiving fees for travelers who want to cancel or change their plans in light of COVID-19.

“If travelers have questions, we encourage them to go directly to their airlines or the booking agency they used (like Expedia or Kayak) to do that,” Schield said. “Each airline will have a different policy.”

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