Passover focuses on family and uniting around the seder table. With another COVID Passover arriving, getting together with family is on our minds. Still, since more people are getting vaccinated, some may wonder whether it is advisable to travel.
Traveling during Passover is complicated. Blink and COVID updates could change.
With that noted, here is what some of Atlanta’s infectious disease doctors have to say about traveling during Passover. Most recommended staying at home with immediate family, but if you are traveling or gathering with small groups, continue to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“My take on SARS COV-2 travel and vaccination is really a question of risk
versus reward,” said Dr. Lee Diamond. “Obviously, the safest recommendation is to stay home and continue to focus on mask use, hand washing and avoiding large crowds. Since people can still transmit and become infected by COVID-19, even after vaccination, this makes the discussion about an individual persons’ risk factors that more important. As you know there are also issues regarding variant virus strains in certain locals at any point in time as well.”
Asked whether it’s safe to travel if you’re vaccinated, Dr. Richard Prokesch said, “The easy answer is ‘no.’ COVID has been a crazy time and what I tell you today in two weeks could be different. Today, I would not advise traveling without certain restrictions. If you are vaccinated and you are planning to visit a small gathering of friends or family, that reduces, but does not totally eliminate the risk.
“Some airlines do better than others and the primary risk is in the airports. If you are planning to travel to a seder, all are fully vaccinated, it is a small gathering, the CDC’s new guidelines allow interaction without wearing masks with minimal risk of infection or serious illness. However, if some attendees are unvaccinated, I would advise masking and social distancing.”
He added, “I am afraid that due to the holidays and spring breaks we will have that fourth surge. People are getting vaccinated and by May the vaccine will be made available to persons 18 and up, so I feel that we should wait it out a few more months. Presently when my friends ask my opinion on travel to New York for Passover, I do not recommend it. We need to adhere to the low number of contacts. It is important to emphasize that the CDC’s new recommendations are only addressing personal gatherings and do not apply to public interactions, including the workplace and places such as synagogues.”
Prokesch offered further warning. “We think if you are vaccinated to COVID with two shots (Pfizer or Moderna) or one shot (Johnson & Johnson) and you waited the two weeks, you are likely immune, but theoretically you could still transmit it to someone else that is not immune. While most children do not become seriously ill with COVID, some have gotten really sick, and even died.
“There is still a risk that needs to be weighed before interacting. I worry about grandchildren, but I agree with the CDC guidelines stating it is OK to hug your grandchildren if you know for sure that the household has been safe and taken measures not to be exposed to anyone that could be COVID infected, even asymptomatically,” he continued.
“It is important to know everyone’s interactions in the household. Variant strains are rising in the United States and seem to be more transmissible than the original strains. …
“If friends or family are not wearing masks, and are unvaccinated, they are not considerate of me and putting me and others at risk. The vaccine is highly effective and certainly the Pfizer and Moderna are over 95 percent and it is not 100 percent,” Prokesch stressed.
“Currently we are moving in the right direction but are not there yet. We had the same sense of optimism in the fall only to see a surge worse than any of the previous ones after the winter holidays. Now that more and more are able to get vaccinated, with persistent patience and intelligent behavior we will get to where we can safely hug our grandchildren and even our friends in the near future.”
In general, he cautioned, “We don’t know all the answers and are learning. I want to relay the message that we must hold on a little longer and follow the CDC guidelines wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands in public places and when appropriate in private settings. If we let our guard down, this can go sideways fast and have yet a fourth surge resulting again with hospitals full of COVID patients and canceling elective surgeries. The cycle needs to stop as it could cripple the healthcare system.”
Dr. Mitchell A. Blass told the AJT, “There are some things that are within our control, such as our own cough hygiene, social distancing and the wearing of masks when appropriate. There are other things that we cannot control, such as the actions of others. It is important to be mindful of the difference, because it is easy to become overwhelmed with matters that are beyond our control, and this may lead to frustration, anger and resentment,” he stated in an email.
“My understanding of the scientific studies to date indicate that after both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations, they provide substantial protection against death from pandemic coronavirus as well as nearly complete protection from mild to moderately severe disease. Ultimately everyone must determine their own level of comfort with that information and there are some important differences between air travel and traveling in a private vehicle.
“Passover is a celebration of the Jewish people’s liberation from Pharaoh. I think it is important for those traveling to remain mindful of cough hygiene, hand washing, social distancing and mask utilization. My preference is to travel by car, rather than air-travel.”
Blass concluded, “I plan to begin our Passover seder with a prayer for an end to the pandemic.”
For the latest updates regarding COVID vaccination and guidelines for COVID safety, stay up-to-date with the CDC, www.cdc.gov.