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Thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations being on the rise and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention broadening guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, you may be thinking about traveling soon. Since being fully vaccinated doesn’t mean forgoing all COVID-19 precautions, we asked two experts what essentials you should pack while traveling to keep yourself (and others) as safe as possible.
Both Dr. Tania Mucci-Elliott, M.D., an allergy and infectious disease doctor, and Dr. David Katz, M.D., founder of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, agree that disposable face masks are a must-have.
“A mask is key. Consider having a bunch of disposable masks so you don’t have to worry about losing one or washing yours when on the go,” Mucci-Elliott tells PEOPLE. Katz says, “whatever variety you have been using all along” works, but favors a “standard medical mask.”
The CDC states fully vaccinated people still need to wear a mask on public transportation, and the Transportation Security Administration has extended its mask mandate for airports, bus stations, and train stations until September 13.
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Mucci-Elliott also recommends packing a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol and encourages trying a brand that “has different formulations like foam or continuous spray if you aren’t a fan of the liquid gel that’s hard to get the amount right.” However, Katz advises to “sanitize when warranted, but not arbitrarily,” unless you are in direct contact with a large number of potentially infected people.
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When it comes to disinfecting surfaces, the CDC states that the risk of infection from touching a surface is low, but cleaning once a day is sufficient “when no people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 are known to have been in a space.” In terms of carrying disinfectant wipes while traveling, Mucci-Elliott says it “doesn’t hurt to be vigilant,” while Katz emphasizes that sanitizing is more warranted “when you are potentially exposed to people of unknown COVID-19 status.”
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The CDC still recommends handwashing for 20 seconds to prevent the spread of infection, and Mucci-Elliott says to continue that practice while traveling. “The best advice would be to avoid direct physical contact with anyone who might be infected — unless they are already part of your ‘bubble,'” Katz says. If you’re worried about the lack of hand soap in public restrooms while traveling, you can purchase travel-sized soap, or fill up your own travel bottles.
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Last but not least, Mucci-Elliott advises to not forget a pair of sunglasses, which could help you avoid touching your eyes.
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Katz’s overall advice? “Accept that we never enjoyed completely risk-free living (or travel) before COVID-19, and cannot expect to do so now either,” he says. “Strike a balance between managing risk and living. Pandemic or not, that is the best we can do!”
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