December 3, 2021 | OPINION | By Karly Hamilton

As I sat on the plane waiting to head back to campus following fall break, I couldn’t help but think about the germs I — and anyone else traveling over the holiday — was exposed to while traveling. Even with safety protocols in place, traveling means being exposed to different people and more germs than one would encounter daily, and with the new Omicron variant, I was even more concerned about safety while traveling.

Traveling always has its risks, but health concerns have substantially increased since the beginning of the pandemic last year. To start, moving from one place to another while sick can spread the illness — in this case, COVID — to new places. On top of that, airports and other travel hubs are gathering places with lots of people one would not otherwise interact with, exposing them to a new variety of germs.

The question becomes, is it still worthwhile to travel given the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19?

While the answer will vary from person to person, I see no reason for traveling to be off the table. The Omicron variant is important to be aware of, but it is not reason enough to call off travel plans.

Tulane University virologist Robert Garry said “he does not see many important mutations that might make the Omicron version more contagious than Delta.” The Delta variant spread rapidly at the beginning of the summer, but with booster shots becoming available to a wider range of people, there are additional precautions that can be taken to limit the likelihood of getting COVID-19.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be overly concerned when it comes to germs, but after getting my booster shot while I was at home over break and continuing to follow safety protocols, I felt very safe traveling back to campus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to encourage people to be fully vaccinated before traveling, as well as informing people that wearing a mask over one’s mouth and nose is required while traveling. For unvaccinated individuals, the CDC recommends being tested before and after traveling to ensure people who test positive do not put others at risk while traveling.

The Omicron variant reinforces the importance of following the CDC’s guidelines, but assuming one does so, traveling can be done safely and efficiently. I find the hardest part of traveling during the pandemic is wearing a mask for so long—especially on longer flights. But at the end of the day, the discomfort is worthwhile to ensure my health and safety, as well as that of the people I am traveling to see.

As the majority of Colorado College students are vaccinated and were tested upon return to campus, we are in an environment where travel feels safe. On a day-to-day basis, we are frequently surrounded by other vaccinated individuals. We also wear masks. Coupled with the school’s COVID testing system, I felt perfectly comfortable traveling home over Thanksgiving, and look forward to doing the same over our winter break next month.

We all have different comfort levels when it comes to health and safety, especially during the pandemic, and it is important to be aware of that. However, with the right safety precautions and preventative measures taken, I — and many of my peers — felt comfortable traveling over break.

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