Esmé Puzio / Daily Nexus

As many are returning from spring break, it has become apparent that my peers have already started planning for their summer vacations. However, even with the abundance of travel and vacation at this time, it is important that we still practice keeping ourselves and others safe from the coronavirus. 

Although the severity of COVID-19 is slowly becoming something of the past, we are still actively living amidst mask and vaccine protocols and are only now recovering from the omicron spike. The omicron variant created a surge of cases in winter, most pressingly in the months of December and January when it accounted for approximately 99.2% of COVID-19 infections

It is important to recognize that COVID-19 is still categorized as an international phenomenon with long-lasting effects in our world, even more so in certain nations. Many countries are still facing hardships and adversity since the start of the outbreak in 2020 and, as a result, are truly struggling to recover. For instance, economies within Russia, Pakistan, Poland, Peru and many more are grappling with the reality of limited access to health care infrastructures, the shutdowns of education institutions, the loss of employment and the minimal availability of vaccines and COVID-19 antigen tests. 

Hong Kong is actually facing its worst outbreak of cases yet, with soaring numbers in recorded cases. This outbreak is so severe that they have announced another mass lockdown and have prohibited all travel in and out of the Chinese administration. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has been, and still remains, an incessant issue for an abundance of nations around the world. 

The surge of the omicron variant has followed a widely expected path, that is, peaking in January and easing its way into a rather non-concerning element of the COVID-19 battle once it had done its damage. While various strands of COVID-19 have come and gone, the most recent one that should be acknowledged is known as BA.2. This subvariant is supposedly 30% more transmissible than its predecessor, and researchers have come to learn that this subvariant can evade detection in current COVID-19 antigen tests. There are several mutations of the original strand of COVID-19, but this subvariant is the most up-and-coming form of the virus that could result in severe disease or hospitalization if unvaccinated

For those of you who have done your part to protect yourself and others around you by getting fully vaccinated, this new subvariant should not be a cause of stress! I am simply just bringing it to your attention so that as citizens of our society, we can be diligent and aware of how this pandemic is evolving and likely approaching a state of insignificancy.

In terms of how this can affect one’s plans for travel, I would confidently recommend that thorough research and planning is the most effective way to be safe and cautious. I think it is only responsible that we are aware of the COVID-19 trends around the world and the severity of which they have impacted different nations. However, there are plenty of places around the globe that are ready for you to make your vacation debut!

In terms of traveling internationally, there are a plethora of places that are actively working to lift outdoor and indoor mask mandates and other restraints put into place over the years. Nations like Japan, Austria, Germany, Canada, Israel, Australia, Greece, Italy, New Zealand and several more have announced significant changes made in early to mid-March regarding the mandates for masks and event capacities, as well as easing border restrictions for travel purposes! If you intend to spend your break internationally, it is crucial that you must do research on the specificities concerning the new COVID-19 protocols. 

If you are planning to travel within the United States, a majority of states are pursuing new protocols in an attempt to achieve a fully reopened status. You may do your own research for the specific state you intend to travel to, but generally, individuals older than 2 years of age are still required to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Furthermore, it is still required that one wears a mask whilst traveling via airplane, but we may be told otherwise on April 18, as there may be a new lifting of mandates for public transportation. Stay tuned!

For those of you with your plans already set, please take into consideration these five pieces of advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so that you can enjoy your vacation safely and worry-free! 

First and foremost, the CDC recommends that you stay up to date with your vaccines, meaning get fully vaccinated or commit to getting your booster. Additionally, they encourage getting all vaccinations required by the country you are planning to vacation in, to ensure protection from all possible diseases you could encounter while abroad.

Secondly, do your research and check the travel requirements of the place you wish to visit! The CDC offers generators that show the severity level of COVID-19 in each nation. Be diligent in checking that you aren’t planning to go to a highly infectious area as of right now.

Third, speak with your health care provider to get the best understanding of the illnesses and diseases you can expect to encounter on your trip, and evaluate your vulnerability to such ailments. 

Fourth, expect the unexpected! We are living in unprecedented times, so we must learn to be flexible if plans evolve in a moment. Therefore, do what you can to protect yourself, such as purchasing travel insurance or being prepared with health care information in case you may need medical attention while away.

Lastly, protect yourself and your loved ones! Follow the COVID-19 protocols in place, wear your mask, wash your hands and make smart decisions so you can be happy, healthy and enjoy your trip!

I want to reiterate that I fully support you in whatever adventures you plan. As long as you are safe, practicing healthy and responsible habits and educating yourself on COVID-19, you will have a blast!

Reese Coblentz aims to inform you of current COVID-19 statistics and occurrences that society should be aware of and how this can influence your future vacation plans.