If you’re planning to visit North California but notice flu-like symptoms en route, you may have COVID-19. What should you do? Here’s what to expect from travel during the pandemic, as well as how to handle COVID-19 while you’re on the road.
Current state of travel in California during the pandemic
Unlike the common cold or the flu, it’s possible to be infected with COVID-19 but have no symptoms. In fact, current research estimates that 40–50% of cases are asymptomatic, and you can transmit the virus to others whether or not you develop symptoms.
This is why most airlines are currently requiring a negative COVID-19 test result before you are cleared to board. It’s a good idea to get tested before you fly so that a positive test result doesn’t upend your travel plans on your departure date.
California currently has some travel advisories in place to help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Vaccinated individuals should follow the CDC’s travel guidance and wear a mask at all times in terminals and public transportation, wash hands frequently, and practice social distancing.
- Unvaccinated individuals (or those who are not fully vaccinated) are encouraged to postpone nonessential travel. Those who do travel should get tested both before and after their trip, as well as quarantine for 7 days regardless of test results.
People who are traveling into California for recreation or leisure are encouraged to postpone travel plans where possible. They are also encouraged to quarantine for seven days upon arrival in the state.
What should you do if you have the symptoms of COVID-19 while travelling?
If you’re driving to North California – or are already in the middle of your trip – and start to feel the symptoms of COVID-19, it’s important to get tested so you can know whether you need to change your travel plans. It’s also important to quarantine while you wait for test results in order to prevent accidental transmission if you are sick.
3 Options for COVID-19 testing
- The standard RT-PCR test is a nasal swab or saliva test designed to detect the genetic material of the virus, making this test the most accurate option available. However, this test typically takes about 1–3 business days to return results, making it a less than ideal option for people who are visiting friends or family, or who are traveling on a tight time table.
- Like the RT-PCR, the rapid antigen test is typically a nasal swab. This test is designed to detect proteins coating the surface of the virus and can return results within 15 minutes. However, it’s important to note that this test has an estimated 1 in 5 chance of returning incorrect results. Some airlines will not accept the results of this test.
- Those in need of fast, accurate answers have a third option. A rapid PCR test in North California combines the accuracy of RT-PCR with the speed of the antigen test, and is available from select medical providers. This test is also a nasal swab that detects the genetic material of the virus, but it can be processed onsite with results in as little as 30 minutes.
Ultimately, the decision about which test to get depends on the individual’s situation, how quickly they need results, and whether they need the test to meet airline travel requirements.
If you do test positive, it’s important to cancel your travel plans and remain quarantined where you are for two weeks.
When should I visit the emergency room?
One curious aspect of COVID-19 is the way that symptoms manifest from person to person. One person may experience few to no symptoms while another could require intensive care. If you do think you need to visit the emergency room, it’s important to call ahead and let them know you have COVID-19. They will be able to provide specific instructions for you.
COVID-19 emergency symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing that isn’t related to congested sinus passages
- A persistent pressure in your chest
- Your skin, lips, or fingertips begin to turn blue
- You’re feeling confused or are having difficulty staying awake
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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