Midwest winters can be hard with several months of cold and snow. Many Wisconsinites look forward to spring break out-of-state to warm up to a new season, especially this year.

Last March, spring break travel was abruptly canceled for many students and families due to the pandemic and nationwide shutdown. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against traveling this spring saying, “Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”

Public health officials in Northeast Wisconsin say if you must travel, residents need to proceed with caution when leaving Wisconsin for a sunnier state or foreign destination.

“If you decide to travel, it is important for you to follow the precautions against COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated,” says Bonnie Kolbe, RN, BSN, CHPN, Health Division Manager and health officer at Calumet County Health Division, a Be Safe Wisconsin partner. “Experts do not know yet if vaccinated people could be asymptomatic carriers who could infect others with coronavirus, so masking and distancing as much as possible is still necessary.”

The CDC offers this Spring Break Travel overview to consider before making plans and these Travelers’ Health Tips, which suggest –

  • Knowing your travel risk. This includes knowing when not to travel, such as if you or a travel companion are sick, have tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to a person with COVID-19.
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Then wait two weeks after your second inoculation to travel. The body needs time to build protection after any vaccination.
  • Getting tested. The requirement of “all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested for COVID-19 infection no more than three days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.”
  • Wearing a face covering in public places. The federal face mask mandate applies “on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.”
  • Checking out COVID-19 notices. Here are recommendations by destination around the world and a travel planner specific to the United States.
  • Avoiding cruise ship travel. This is to reduce the introduction and spread of new variants of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).

The CDC states, “Keep in mind that getting from one place to another is just one piece of the travel risk. Your activities and who you interact with before, during, and after travel may increase your risk.”

Bottom line, traveling raises the risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus because you will be exposed to more people. Public health experts suggest sticking with the basics to protect yourself and others while traveling.

  • Wear a mask.
  • Watch your distance.
  • Wash your hands.

Be Safe Wisconsin Partner ThedaCare suggests an alternative to traveling outside of the area: Plan a “staycation” instead. Some ideas to stay close to home while having fun as a family over spring break:

  • Have a movie marathon. Each family member chooses a film to watch.
  • Visit multiple state parks. Choose an outdoor adventure based on the weather.
  • Pickup carry-out meals. Access curbside delivery from local restaurants.
  • Be adventurous online. Explore a museum or other tourist site virtually.

“While spring vacations can be helpful in upholding our mental health, it’s important not to sacrifice our physical health in the process,” says Dr. Robert Sedlacek, a Family Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca. “While it’s been a difficult year for many and we look forward to returning to fun events like taking trips, it’s important to continue making safe decisions to help us get to the point where those activities can happen. Let’s all do our part.”