Nov. 17: Guidance to mitigate risk while traveling

Dear Students,

As many of you prepare to travel home or other locations, I want to offer some guidance that allows you to enjoy the break while also taking necessary steps to protect yourself, as well as your family. 

This fall semester, you have accumulated a wealth of important and powerful information about how to stay healthy during a pandemic. The COVID-19 protocols you followed at Bates are exactly the behaviors that will help you mitigate risk during your travel.

So whether you are traveling to Portland, Ore., or Portland, Maine, please, during your trip, take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 in the same way you’ve protected yourself and fellow community members this fall.

Before You Travel: Plan, Anticipate, and Be Aware

Bates always advises our students to be aware of your surroundings when traveling. The way a climber plans a hike, or a writer develops a story outline, you should take time to evaluate and plan your path toward your destination. 

Continue to limit your close contacts at Bates

For the sake of your family and your home community, please continue to limit your close contacts between now and when you travel.

Check the pandemic protocols where you’re traveling

Check to see if the state you’re traveling to has implemented quarantine measures or other requirements for visitors. Some state, local, and territorial governments have requirements, such as requiring people to wear masks and requiring those who recently traveled to stay home for up to 14 days.

Check to see if COVID-19 is spreading at your destination

You can easily check the number of cases and trends in the location you’re traveling to. The more cases at your destination, the more likely you are to get infected during travel and spread the virus to others when you return. This CDC map shows the number of COVID-19 cases per 100K reported to the CDC in the last seven days:

This color-coded CDC map shows the number of COVID-19 cases per 100K reported to the CDC in the last seven days. The highest numbers are the darkest colors.

Anticipate your travel needs

  • Bring a mask to wear in public places and on public transportation.
  • Pack hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Keep this within reach.
  • Bring enough of your medicine to last you for the entire trip.
  • Pack food and water in case restaurants and stores are closed, or if drive-through, take-out, and outdoor-dining options aren’t available.
  • If you are considering cleaning your travel lodgings, see CDC’s guidance on how to clean and disinfect.

When You Travel

As you travel, vigilantly practice time-tested transmission reduction strategies to keep you and the community you are traveling to safe.

  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not from your household.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Extra awareness of these behaviors when traveling is essential to reduce the spread and transmission of COVID-19.

Going through airport security

If you used air travel to travel to Bates in August, chances are you’re aware of the routine of going through security at an airport as the Transportation Security Administration continues to implement pandemic-specific procedures.

  • Reduced Physical Contact: TSA is implementing a phased installation of acrylic barriers at various points throughout the checkpoint that require interaction between passengers and TSA officers. 
  • Medical Exemption for Hand Sanitizer: TSA is allowing one oversized liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Since these containers exceed the standard allowance typically permitted through a checkpoint, they will need to be screened separately. 
  • Expired Driver’s License and REAL ID Extension: If your driver’s license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you are unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as acceptable identification at the checkpoint. 
If using a taxi or rideshare

The CDC recommends to avoid riding with unmasked drivers or passengers; avoid touching surfaces; sit as far as possible from the driver; and ask the driver to improve ventilation by opening the windows or setting the air ventilation system on non-recirculation mode, the agency said.

In bathrooms and rest stops
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom and after you have been in a public place.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
When fueling or recharging a vehicle
  • Use disinfecting wipes on handles and buttons at the gas pumps before you touch them (if available).
  • After fueling, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
At food stops
  • The safest option is to bring your own food. If you don’t bring your own food, use drive-through, delivery, take-out, and curb-side pick-up options.

When You Arrive at Your Destination

A Nov. 16 story in The New York Times quoted medical experts on the question what a college student should do upon arriving home. Here are a few takeaways:

  • While a 14-day quarantine is optimal, even a few days of isolation, avoiding close contact with family members, and inside mask-wearing will lower the risk of transmitting the virus to others. 
  • If possible, find a place away from others in your house.
  • A swab test after returning can give you confidence. 
  • Open windows, even if just a crack, throughout the home to improve ventilation. 

In closing, I want to express again my deep appreciation for the many ways you have worked to enable us to offer an on-campus experience this fall and thank you for showing our community how respecting science and expert advice is an important part of the recipe for mitigating the risk during this pandemic. 

I wish you a restorative break.

All my best,

Joshua McIntosh
Vice President for Campus Life