Is It Safe to Drive Amid Coronavirus Travel Restrictions?

March 23, 2020

With many across the country avoiding air travel in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, some are wondering if it’s safe to travel by car. According to the New York Times, the answer is complicated.

“It’s not necessarily about getting in the car,” Dr. Krutika Kuppali, global health physician and vice chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s global health committee, says. “What really matters is what you’re going to do when you get somewhere.”

With social distancing guidelines in effect, it’s risky to travel by car if the distance is going to force you to stop for gas or food, undoubtedly causing you to interact with others.

Traveling by car could also mean crossing state borders, which means it’s imperative to know the state guidelines in effect for the areas you’re traveling to.

It’s also important to avoid places where many people may be gathering. “Given the strain we already have on our health care systems we don’t want people flocking to one place, getting sick, and then placing even more of a strain on the health care system,” Dr. Kuppalli told the New York Times.

Epidemiologist and director of health services research at Emory University School of Medicine Rachel Patzer says traveling short distances is always better than traveling long distances. It’s important to limit even necessary travel as much as possible.

“We all need to go to the grocery store and get food,” Patzer said. “And that is another opportunity for crowds and exposure. It would be wise to try to limit the number of grocery runs. Where in the past maybe you went every other day, try to just go once a week or once every other week and plan ahead for what you might need.”

Health officials in various parts of the country are encouraging people to go on hikes to curb indoor anxiety, assuming everyone keeps a safe distance from one another. Patzer suggests going only on hikes that are nearby, cutting down on the need to stop for fuel and food.

However, if your area is under a “shelter in place” order, even hiking remains inappropriate.

As for the best way to get around – your personal vehicle is the best method. Following that route comes shared car services, which offer less chances for exposure to the virus than public transit options.

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