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Parenting

Screaming Down the Road

By Dr. Scott Hamilton
August 10, 2020

In previous installments of “Traveling With Children,” I’ve discussed avoiding disasters like plane crashes or hotel fires. The series now has a new dimension: avoiding getting COVID on road trip potty stops. Yesterday, our cousins with three little girls sent us pictures of their driving supplies while they head out west. They included a five-gallon bucket filled with kitty litter and fitted with a toilet seat. The picture’s caption: “This helped us avoid at least 24 interactions in public spaces.” When little kids use the potty, they touch everything: the toilet seat, the walls, you, their own mouths. Gas station bathrooms are nightmares keeping track of their hands and staying sanitary. Now add the risk of breathing in COVID-laden aerosol from fellow travelers. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends not traveling at all during the pandemic.
However, many are craving their summer vacation and, like our cousins above, heading out.

Open air seems to greatly decrease your risk of breathing in someone else’s Coronavirus, as opposed to being indoors and breathing other people’s recirculated air. Hiking is good exercise, and a welcome change of scenery from your home’s yard and four walls. And being outdoors lets you avoid crowds. I find giving advice about vacationing is like giving advice to ATV riders. People put kids on ATVs no matter what I say, so likewise here’s how to minimize your risk if you must go on vacation. First, don’t travel to COVID hot spots, like California or Florida, where your odds of catching it are increased.

Second, minimize interactions en route to your destination. This means not eating inside restaurants. Using a drive-thru is safer, but three drive-thru visits per day still increases your interactions with potentially infectious strangers. Best to pack your own food, which is less expensive and can be healthier.
As far as that potty stop, good luck! One friend mentions that she and her kids will go “over the side of the road,” but her kids are teenagers. With three little girls,
our cousins went with the homemade porto-potty. Maybe just stay home?

While many are hitting the road for summer vacation, those lucky enough to have boats are hitting the water. NPR recently reported on boaters in Washington State sneaking across Canada’s closed borders to visit. Locals at one coastal town complained about an American yacht with teens and adults “wandering the dock…no social distancing, no masks and went through the store as if…shopping at Walmart.” To avoid detection, US boaters switch off their transponders, which are required by international law to avoid collisions, particularly at night or in fog.

With so many American boats “going dark” when they cross the border, the Canadians know they’re not all sinking. For places that rely on tourist dollars, allowing vacationers in is a two-edged sword. While their livelihoods depend on visitors’ lodging and eating budgets, those visitors also bring disease. Canada decided
that American dollars aren’t worth the risk of more Coronavirus. Our National Park system decided the opposite. The citizens of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, were expecting a quieter-than-usual summer with the warnings against traveling. Jackson Hole is near Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks, and has the region’s airport.
Instead, Jackson Hole is experiencing even more visitors than previous years, particularly at campgrounds and RV parks.

People figure that camping and wilderness vacations are “safe-cations,” where they can breathe free of COVID-laden crowds. I’m sure the staff of the town’s only hospital, St.Johns Health, have eyes bugging out like deer in the headlights. As we discussed last week, the CDC recommends not traveling during the Pandemic, since this increases your odds of catching the virus. Even the great outdoors’ wide-open spaces, with record visitors, is now less wide open. If you must vacation,
staying away from National Parks, sadly, is a smart move. Also stay away from any COVID hot spots like California or Florida.

Again like last week, if you’re driving, minimize stops for gas, food and the bathroom. Sanitize your hands after using gas pumps and wear those masks. While flying is much safer than driving as far as avoiding crashes, personal interactions in the airport or airplane may increase your risk of catching Coronavirus. Maybe stay
home, or at least stay south of Canada.

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