If you had to cancel your summer vacation because of COVID-19, you’re not alone.
From nixed events and music festivals to restrictions on patios and restaurants, summer will look very different for most Canadians.
But all hope is not lost. According to experts, this could be the perfect time to explore your own backyard — with a road trip.
This is especially true if your destination is the great outdoors, said Dr. Stan Houston, a professor of medicine at the University of Alberta and an expert in the prevention of communicable diseases.
Going camping or canoeing with the family you’ve been living with during the pandemic is “one of the safest things you could do,” Houston said — especially if you take everything, like groceries, with you.
“That would be unimaginably safe — you’re in the great outdoors,” he said. “Everything else you do that’s a bit different from that might potentially have some (risk).”
The risk level of a road trip will largely depend on your destination and its amount of community transmission, Houston said.
If you’re from a big city like Montreal and you’re heading to a smaller nearby community with fewer instances of COVID-19, you need to be mindful that you could be carrying the virus and act accordingly.
On the contrary, “if you come from a small, safe town and you’re taking holiday in Montreal, then the risk might be greater for you,” Houston said. “That’s one of the things to (consider) in terms of your safety.”
Several provinces and territories have already implemented travel restrictions for those who are not residents of that region.
Problems can arise when travel is done between provinces and an individual doesn’t isolate, Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto previously told Global News.
B.C. still recommends that all non-essential travel beyond the B.C.-Alberta border be avoided. The province’s borders to the Yukon and Northwest Territories are also restricted to essential travel only and some highways are closed.
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario do not have provincial travel bans. All three provinces, however, are advising against non-essential travel.
Although it did at first, interprovincial travel between Manitoba and other western provinces, up to west of Terrace Bay in Ontario, no longer requires a two-week self-isolation period.
Quebec has begun to loosen some travel restrictions that were implemented earlier in the pandemic. In April, checkpoints were created to bar travellers from too much mobility if they weren’t travelling for essential reasons.
Most of the province has opened back up again, but some areas are still restricted — including the Cree territory of James Bay.
Some provinces, like Nova Scotia, are imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers coming from other parts of Canada.
And even stricter regulations are in place in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, only residents of the province can enter along with those who have extenuating circumstances. New Brunswick is prohibiting all non-essential travel and the province is screening all who enter and enforcing a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Prince Edward Island is also barring all non-essential travel and anyone attempting to enter the province for non-essential reasons can be turned away, or be told to leave immediately if they are found to be there for the wrong reasons.
New Brunswick has tied a new swath of cases to a doctor it claimed travelled to Quebec and did not isolate upon returning to the province. However, that doctor disputes the claim and is seeking an apology from New Brunswick, saying everyone he initially came into contact with has tested negative for the virus.
Staying in a hotel
The safety of a hotel depends on precautions both you and the hotel take during your stay.
Canadian hotels are implementing strict cleaning protocols, and that, combined with physical distancing and good hand hygiene, should make it relatively safe for you to spend a night away from home in the near future, experts say.
“If people take proper precautions and the hotel really does follow these strict cleaning protocols … I think there’s a way that people can reasonably enjoy some time out of their homes in the safest way possible,” said Dr. David Finn, the medical director at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The main areas of concern at a hotel, says Finn, are interacting with staff and other guests in common areas and the way rooms are cleaned.
To reassure potential guests, many hotels — from luxury resorts to budget-friendly brands — are sharing the changes they’re making on their websites.
New practices may include adding hand sanitizer stations in lobbies, disinfecting surfaces like elevator buttons more frequently and removing extra items in rooms, such as pens and paper. Breakfast buffets may also be replaced with prepackaged meals.
‘Safe’ ways to socialize
When it comes to visiting tourist attractions, “the devil’s in the details,” Houston said.
“If you’re walking around a big city and it’s not super crowded and you’re maintaining your physical distance and perhaps wearing your mask … I think that would be a very low-risk activity,” he said.
For public places like shared washrooms, you can assess if it’s safe enough for you to use, experts told Global News.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to COVID-19, the primary risk factor is the number of people you are around, Allison McGeer, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital, previously told Global News.
“It is a little difficult in bathrooms sometimes to maintain social distancing. So that’s a bit of an issue,” McGeer said.
But ultimately, making more of an effort to distance in a bathroom is a better option than leaving bathrooms closed, she said.
The most important precaution to take when using these facilities is to wash your hands thoroughly, because that will mitigate the risk of touching certain surfaces, she said.
Ultimately, if you take all the necessary precautions and minimize interactions with other people in enclosed spaces like grocery stores, Houston said, a road trip should be pretty safe.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
— With files from Global News’ Olivia BowdenView link »