New tools offer peace of mind for pandemic travel


Omicron brought a slowly recovering travel industry to its knees this holiday season. Thousands of airline workers stayed home after catching the coronavirus variant, and between Christmas Eve 2021 and January 2, 2022, some 14,000 flights were canceled. Thousands of travelers were stranded or tested positive and found themselves quarantined abroad.

With 210 million people fully vaccinated in the United States and Omicron showing signs of peaking in some regions, an estimated 80 percent of American travelers are planning trips in the coming year. Yet they still need to assess the risk at their destinations and navigate the complexities of COVID-19 safety requirements for travel.

Some of the most essential travel advice remains the same: Strengthen your vaccine with an appropriate booster, wear a good mask when indoors, prioritize outdoor activities when possible, and social distance to bolster all these defenses.

Unlike early in the pandemic, now there are many resources to help with every stage of a trip, from calculators that assess your risk before travel to easy-to-get COVID-19 tests. In worst-case scenarios, travelers can better plan for cancellations, quarantining, and health care abroad. Here are some of the innovations that’ll make your next trip easier and—potentially—safer.

Planning your trip
Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist with the University of Texas’s School of Public Health in Dallas, says travelers no longer need to live with the pandemic guessing games of 2020 and 2021. One of those tools is her weekday newsletter, where she presents facts and news about COVID-19 that can help readers assess risks or timing of trips at different destinations.

The website microCOVID features an innovative risk calculator that has users enter data on where they are going, what they are doing, and who they are meeting with, and then generates a risk assessment. For instance, if you are traveling to Germany and planning to meet with two people indoors, the risk is “dangerously high,” even if you’re wearing a KN95 mask.

Maps displaying COVID-19 information can help with travel decisions. While the U.S. is still averaging 744,000 new cases a day, and Europe is at 1.5 million, locations within states or continents will have varying risks. But summarizing a world of information is no simple task.

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