Spring break travel discouraged. If you do go, here’s some ways to reduce the risk

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Health experts and school leaders advise against travel as students head out for spring break, but said families can minimize their risk if they do take a trip.

Health experts and school leaders are advising against travel as students head out for spring break in the coming weeks, but they said families can minimize their risk if they do take a vacation.

Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County recommends against travel, in particular for spring break, spokesman Dan Suffoletto said. The CDC also still recommends staying home.

Beavercreek schools are on spring break this week, said Jeff Madden, director of student services with the district. The district has seen lower COVID-19 case counts for the past eight weeks, he said, and is less concerned than during Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

But the district hopes families will keep safety in mind if they travel now, Madden said.

“We feel like our families and students are doing things safely as this semester and the sports seasons progress,” he said. “They’re keeping their circles small, they’re keeping their distance when they’re around big groups, keeping their masks on.”

Dr. Heather Markwell, a family medicine doctor at Premier Health, said she does not recommend travel now, but with vaccines becoming more readily available, it will likely get safer.

“Numbers are going down, but it’s still pretty prominent,” Markwell said. “So, while it’s not perfectly safe, we are definitely getting there. We’re still recommending you try to avoid travel as much as possible.”

Starting March 10, the Ohio Department of Health no longer issues a travel advisory for states reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher. Instead, ODH now encourages Ohioans to carefully review CDC guidance when considering travel.

Markwell recommends anyone who can get the vaccine to get it and a test before traveling.

“We are recommending that if you do want to travel, you get a test within one to three days prior to going on any sort of travel or excursion to make sure that you get screened so that you don’t spread it,” Markwell said. “And then get tested or do a self-quarantine for a week prior to returning to normal once you get back.”

Each state has slightly different recommendations for social distancing or other safety measures, Markwell said, so travelers should make sure they know what those are before going to a new state.

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And good hygiene remains key.

“I know it seems like a broken record at this point, but hand hygiene is so important. It’s the bread and butter for all of this,” Markwell said. “Keep your mask on, cover your nose, cover your mouth and use your hand sanitizer and wash your hands, because that is where the vast majority of viral spread comes from.”

Driving is lower risk than flying, Markwell said, as people won’t be in a confined space with strangers. Traveling with immediate family or people who live in the same household is safer than with people who don’t live together. Staying in a rental home or cabin is safer than a hotel at a crowded resort, she said. Eating outside is safer than inside at a restaurant right now.

“The risk isn’t going to be zero until the (COVID) numbers drop significantly,” Markwell said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he has a “significant concern” over people traveling for spring break. Anytime a large group of people gather he said it’s “worrisome.”

“We know that while we’ve vaccinated one-fifth of Ohioans, that means four-fifths are not vaccinated,” he said.

Gene Lolli, superintendent of Fairborn City Schools, said the district has been reminding students and their families the whole semester to be mindful of public health guidelines.

“We’re always reminding them to keep a safe distance away at school and at home, we’re reminding them not to gather,” Lolli said.

Fairborn’s spring break is next week. Lolli said he would ask students to quarantine if they take a spring break trip and return feeling sick.

The majority of the staff at Fairborn schools are vaccinated, Lolli said.

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Madden advised students taking spring break trips to stay with their families, go places where they can be outside and visit states with lower positivity rates.

“If you have visited a high incident state, then strongly consider quarantining when you return from break,” Madden said. “We’re cautiously optimistic. We’re glad we have an added layer of protection for our staff, they have been provided with the vaccine.”

Madden said he believe spring break travel will be less than in years past.

“Although our positive case count is down and although we remain very optimistic that COVID is having less of an impact on our staff and our community, we also don’t want to have our kids to forget that we’re in a pandemic,” Madden said. “We still need to be conscientious of our social distancing, wearing a mask, washing our hands and following the appropriate protocols as we finish the final inning of this pandemic.”

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