In June, my husband and I began a two-week trip through five states. In the pre-epidemic era, we traveled frequently, but in the absence of safety concerns related to air travel and lack of the ability to travel internationally even if we felt comfortable with assumptions about that risk, getting on the road was the safest and most reliable way for us to get rid of for a bit. And we are doing well, with reports that RV tourism is increasing every year.
To prepare for our trip, we brought masks and handwash, planned to avoid major cities, and determined to cling to outdoor attractions. Of course, since we choose not to be isolated and at home, there is no precaution that we can take that will completely protect us from the possibility of infection and spread of COVID-19. However, after preparing to a degree that we found appropriate, we felt comfortable starting our trip.
That said, we don’t necessarily feel comfortable with every experience that happens later in the trip. From gas station bathrooms to hiking in the national park and everything else, here’s what I can share directly about road safety during the great epidemic.
Road safety during the epidemic: Here are the things that did and didn’t feel safe:
- Masking protocol — in certain states
The mask guide is said to be the most obvious difference in safety when traveling between states we have visited. We are from California, where everyone is required to wear a mask while in public. Oregon, where we go next, seems to be doing the same thing. But as we travel north and east and cross the border, safety protocols have clearly eased.
In Washington, all employees at businesses I visited wore masks, but only about half went out despite state orders. In Idaho, where people are encouraged to wear masks despite no official state order declaring it, employees at restaurants and bars wear masks, but not many others do so. And in Montana, very few people wear masks (the state directive on wearing masks during and during certain outdoor activities is issued in July after I complete my trip).
Now, I realize that I can avoid some cases of not feeling safe when it comes to face-covering policies in a certain area by doing more previous research. Information about virus rates and mask policies is available for certain states and cities, and both factors are constantly changing.
“Know where you’re going. Knowing what’s outside, knowing the numbers and the situation is really important. ” —Infectious Disease Specialist Waleed Javaid, MD
According to infectious disease expert Waleed Javaid, MD, carrying out this preliminary study – and checking the status of the findings just before the trip begins – is important for road safety, as awareness is the most important rule for traveling during the epidemic. “Know where you’re going. In addition to understanding the number of viruses and masking policies, understanding current laws for each state is important, as you may have to be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival and maybe even when you return home.
As an avid Airbnb customer, I understand that some hosts are committed to providing safe and clean facilities for travelers during the epidemic, on a personal level, I feel more like choosing a hotel room. So I carefully chose boutique-style motels without hundreds of rooms or long cramped corridors where germs could hide.
For example, at The Finch in Walla Walla, Washington, the only contact I had with the staff was at the time of the room and when I went to get a cup of coffee one morning from the lobby. For this, the table service staff plays the role of bartender, so that guests do not have to touch anything but their own cups. No one entered our room during our stay to clean up, and the hotel even texted me during the stay to see if we needed anything. The payment process is also done in writing.
The Camp, a luxury classic trailer park in Bend, Oregon, is another great option as we have our very own airflow to stay in. There were only about a dozen other trailers, all spread out, and we never even met anyone else nearby —employees or employees. One of my problems here is that the shower, because of the lack of space in the trailers, is common. This made me feel a little insecure and so I skipped a few days.
Whether you are staying in a resort, hotel, vacation rental, or at a campsite, Dr. Javaid recommends asking for specifics on how the property keeps guests safe before booking. “Ask their policies about how far away from society is, how they clean up, how they clean before and after someone is in the room, and how they maintain it,” he said.
- Restaurants, breweries, and winery
Almost every place we go to eat and drink has safety procedures in place. Most restaurants are only served when booking in advance (this minimizes crowding and traffic jams from walking guests) and many restaurants have blocked half of their tables to allow distance between parties. According to the appointment, the winery also appeared with tables apart. For example, at Beaux Frères Vineyards & Winery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, we have our own outdoor dining table with no one else in sight. The winery also arranges pre-pouring flights to limit contact between guests and owners.
The breweries that we visited, not just booked in advance, felt safest for me. Each of the 10 people we visited had signage everywhere to remind patrons of instructions away from society, glass panels in front of order stations, and one-way lanes for ordering and picking up, to minimize human contact.
- Some hiking trails
Overall, hiking at state parks, including Glacier National Park, feels like a safe operation. However, it may be the result of the message that outdoor activities are one of the least risky activities for viral transmission, it seems we are not the only ones who think hiking.
It’s no surprise that national and state parks are much more crowded than the less popular trails. In fact, we did not walk to Glacier National Park on the first try because that day it was at full capacity. (We arrived the next morning by arriving just before 9am and only finding parking at the top of the trail.) Few people mark, and certain points feel too busy at certain road segments. We tried our best to step off the trail for people to go through in these cases, but in the end, I felt safest when we went a little bit to find the little trails that pass by, in addition, it’s great that you have it all for yourself. We also found that going later in the afternoon and taking advantage of long summer days made the number of people on the trails a lot less.
“Anything crowded, you should avoid,” Dr. Javaid said. People forget how close we can be, especially on hiking trails or beaches.”
“Anything crowded, you should avoid. People forget how close we can be, especially on hiking trails or beaches. ” —Tr. Javaid
To make a distance from others, we bought the tubes inside, which became our safe space. We used them to float in the freezing waters of Lake Avalanche in Glacier National Park, away from the crowded coastlines. We were floating on Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho; down the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon; and at Lake Tahoe, California, again di separation from the crowded beaches.
Water is like a protective bubble, where it is easy to achieve social distance. One day we changed accessories for kayaking and rowing (our own; not with a group), bringing the same effect.
- Bathroom with gas station
Even before the epidemic, I tried to avoid the bathrooms of the service station. But with road safety and the focus of this journey, I found more of these spaces crowded than usual, with people queuing waiting (not six feet apart) to use them.
That said, Dr. Javaid says public restrooms are not necessarily high-risk, especially if you don’t remove a mask while indoors. He’s more worried about crowded restrooms, which means that as long as you shield and clean accordingly, you may feel better than I did about the bathroom at the gas station. However, you may want to avoid points located right near crowded highways, especially during peak times.