Is It Safe To Take A Road Trip For The Fourth Of July?

Photo: Getty Images.
Something about Independence Day weekend just makes me feel like I should be heading to the great outdoors — to the beach, to the lake, to the hiking trails, or to a new town in the U.S. I've never visited. Of course, this year, travel is... complicated. People aren't getting on planes or trains if they can help it. But what about a good, old-fashioned road trip for the holiday weekend? Is it safe to hop in the car and hit the open road?
Actually, according to Shannon Sovndal, MD, an emergency medical services medical director in Boulder, Colorado and the author of Fragile, it might be exactly what your family needs right now.
"A road trip is a great idea!" says Dr. Sovndal. But that statement comes with a big caveat: It's a great idea if you're taking the drive with your pre-established quarantine crew. "The tricky part is if you say you're going to take a road trip with four separate friends that have been staying with different groups of people," he says.
"That poses some risk because you're going to be in a tight car, and that's what we're worried about," Dr. Sovndal continues. "This virus isn't some voodoo virus that doesn't act normally. The closer proximity you are with a higher viral load, the more likely you are to get a virus." And as we all know by now, a person can be infected without showing symptoms. In fact, that short window in between the time you're infected and the time you show symptoms may be the period you're most contagious. So your buddies may all look healthy, even as they're turning your shared vehicle into a rolling virus-mobile.
So stick with the people you're already quarantining with, Dr. Sovndal says. Pack face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes, and keep in mind that wherever you go, you'll want to aim to uphold the CDC's coronavirus restrictions, which currently still recommend measures such as social distancing. That means you'll want to plan your destination carefully, and avoid making tons of stops in populated areas.
"We need to still be cautious, we're still figuring out what this virus does," Dr. Sovndal says. "The rules still apply."
If you don't have a car of your own or if you're planning an overnight trip, renting a car or booking a hotel room is relatively low risk, Dr. Sovndal says. Even the CDC recently announced that the chances of picking up the virus from a surface is low, compared to the risk of getting it from an infected person. Of course, he can't say that there's no possibility of contracting the virus through those means. The best option is to clean all the surfaces yourself with a disinfectant wipe, and to try to avoid touching your face.
All told, a road trip can be a great way to burn off some of that energy that's been building up during your time in quarantine — as long as you're willing to do it safely. Happy driving.

More from Wellness

R29 Original Series