Holiday Travel 2021: Here’s How to Stay Safe from COVID-19

There has been a massive increase in travel bookings both domestically and abroad. This is despite concerns over the persistent delta variant of COVID-19 that some experts say may cause additional transmission spikes this winter. 

So is it safe to travel over the holidays this year?

For the vaccinated, holiday travel may be about managing your own risk. If you’re planning to travel abroad, that can mean testing. For the unvaccinated, that can mean additional restrictions that make it difficult to travel overseas at all and increase your risk if traveling domestically.

If you’ve already made plans, there are ways to be safer about travel this holiday season. Read on for what to expect and how to be prepared for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Holiday Travel: What to Expect

Whether you’re going on a road trip or booking airfare, expect crowds that resemble pre-pandemic levels. Travel demand is high as some are reuniting with loved ones they haven’t seen since the pandemic began.

It’s important to be flexible with your plans. Travel restrictions and recommendations in destinations change, sometimes week by week. Flights may be overbooked as more travelers are booking and canceling plans as those recommendations change. If you are confident in your travel plans and able to book early, do so. You may be shut out of bookings in popular destinations if you wait too long or face exorbitant prices with last-minute travel bookings.

Covid-19 vaccination card and passport

Is It Safe to Fly Right Now?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers delay any air travel until they are fully vaccinated. That said, they also caution that any travel is risky, and the appropriate safety measures should be followed when social distancing is challenging. That means frequent hand washing and masking up, for starters.

That level of risk may be higher for those with underlying health concerns or who live with elderly family members. Transmission rates also vary country by country, even state by state. It’s crucial to make sure you’re aware of any local regulations and restrictions before booking travel. If you’re unvaccinated and looking to travel abroad, you may face quarantine requirements that make it nearly impossible to visit a destination.

People getting off an airplane wearing masks

Holiday Travel Tips

There are ways to travel more safely and reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19 and transmission to loved ones. Follow these holiday travel tips for safer travel:

Travel Prepared

Even if you’re staying at a full-service hotel at your final destination, leave room in your luggage for the tools that have kept you safe up until this point. That includes hand sanitizer for when you don’t have access to soap and water, several masks and your own packed snacks and water. 

Pack sanitizer wipes to wipe down surfaces, as well. While a link between COVID and surface transmission hasn’t been proven, you’re also traveling during peak cold and flu season. Whether you’re dealing with the cold vs. flu vs. COVID, you likely don’t want to catch anything and pass it on to others at your destination.

Person packing face masks and hand sanitizer in their luggage

Mask Up

Wearing a mask is an easy, simple safety precaution that is mandated on most airlines, trains and buses. If you’re traveling somewhere with high transmission rates, the CDC still recommends masking as your next best defense after vaccination. 

Father and daughter wearing masks

Drive Instead of Flying

There haven’t been a large number of COVID cases linked back to transmission inside an airplane. Still, air travel by its very nature exposes travelers to more opportunities for close contact with others. Driving is a more controlled environment.  

Train travel falls somewhere in between. There is more flexibility in some train cars when you can move to less populated areas of the train, but some longer journeys come with assigned seats. The less interaction with others, the better in this ongoing global pandemic.

Family in a car on a road trip

Consider Outdoor Destinations

Beach and ski destinations are leading the charge of most popular travel bookings at the moment. Spending time outdoors has always been a safer proposition than large indoor gatherings. If you’re able, propose meeting family and friends somewhere you can all spend more time outside. 

If you’re worried about high-risk individuals, it may be safer holding off on that large family gathering, spending time with your immediate family instead this holiday season.

Analyze Your Risk

COVID-19 remains a threat no matter what safety precautions you’re taking. Making sure you’re fully vaccinated, and visiting family and friends who are also fully vaccinated is an important step to reducing that risk.

Ask yourself these additional questions if you’re on the fence about holiday travel:

  • Do I have any underlying health conditions?
  • Do I care for anyone who may be immunocompromised?
  • What are the transmission rates where I’m going? Coronavirus in Los Angeles rates have remained steady since the most recent peak in August, but the same may not be true for your final destination.
  • Have I looked into travel guidelines at my final destination? Even though the CDC has determined non-essential travel is safe for vaccinated individuals, other destinations may have a different risk threshold. Do your research before booking. 
  • Should I test before/after travel? Whether you need a COVID test for travel may depend on travel guidelines for your final destination and your level of risk. If you’re vaccinated and not showing any signs of illness, experts say you don’t need a test.

If you’d feel better getting a test, COVID testing in Los Angeles is easier than ever. At Reliant Urgent Care, what to expect from a COVID test in Los Angeles is efficient, reliable results, and three different tests depending on your needs. Our COVID-19 RT-PCR tests are the test of choice for travelers seeking flight clearance, with results available in 24-36 hours. 

Family eating Christmas dinner together

Are There Travel Restrictions in Los Angeles?

There are no current travel restrictions in the state of California. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommends that travelers are fully vaccinated before traveling. While boosters are not necessary at this time to be considered fully vaccinated, the health department strongly recommends scheduling a booster shot as soon as possible now that adults are eligible.

Woman wearing a mask and social distancing at the airport

Reliant Can Help You Travel Safely

For those traveling to visit family and friends considered high risk, it is a good idea to get a COVID test before spending time with those individuals to reduce their risk of exposure. Reliant has several convenient locations for safe, efficient COVID testing, including COVID testing at LAX for travelers. 

If you need COVID testing in LA or want to talk to one of our healthcare providers, contact any of our urgent care locations in Los Angeles. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, we offer telemed services to advise you on the next steps.

Coronavirus in Los Angeles: Everything to Know

Vaccine mandates across the county for many indoor establishments, expanded access to vaccine boosters, and safety plans for businesses and schools have become the new normal in Los Angeles. Keeping track of changing protocols can be challenging, but it’s essential to follow the latest across the county to keep yourself safe and maintain your access to safe spaces. 

This complete guide to coronavirus in Los Angeles will give you everything you need to know about the current situation and what to expect in the coming months around COVID restrictions in Los Angeles.

COVID-19 Update In Los Angeles

Los Angeles coronavirus positive testing rates, COVID deaths and hospitalizations are all down since peaks in the winter and summer months of 2021. Experts predict similar trends as long as vaccination rates continue to climb and protocols remain in place to protect the most vulnerable. You can find additional up-to-date data about Covid-19 in Los Angeles here.

Group of smiling, happy, young people who have the covid vaccine

COVID Variants: What you Should know

As the virus persists and continues to spread throughout the population, new variants will crop up. This is normal. The CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) have been meticulous about tracking variants and how they may differ from the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. 

Most of the agencies’ efforts have been focused on the Delta variant. The Delta variant, first identified in India, spreads faster, is more contagious and can cause more severe symptoms than others. Physicians have found that some proven COVID mitigation strategies have proven less effective when treating patients infected by the Delta variant.

While several variants have been identified since COVID-19 began its spread, not all meet the criteria for variants of concern. According to the WHO, three additional variants of concern on top of the Delta variant are being monitored globally. 

These variants are either more highly transmissible, are more challenging to treat or present differently than what we already know about COVID-19.

They include:

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Gamma

The CDC emphasizes that getting the vaccine is still the best defense against any new variants.

Coronavirus variants

COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms vary from person to person. At the start of the pandemic, symptoms were more flu-like in their presentation rather than resembling the common cold, although that has changed with scientists evaluating more mild cases of COVID-19. It’s much more difficult now to distinguish between a cold vs. flu vs. COVID without testing.

The most common symptoms today include: 

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Fatigue/general malaise
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste/smell
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion/runny nose
Covid-19 most common symptoms

COVID-19 Testing in Los Angeles

COVID-19 testing in Los Angeles remains easy to access for residents. Reliant offers three different COVID-19 diagnostic tests, all nasal swabs. If you’re wondering what to expect from a COVID test in Los Angeles, that will vary somewhat based on the test you take.

The test you choose to book will depend on your unique case, what you’re using the test for, even whether you have symptoms. 

COVID-19 Antigen FIA:

This rapid COVID test offers results available within an hour. Antigen tests are most accurate when the chances of a positive result are high. Some airlines and destinations will not accept antigen tests as proof of testing if you’re planning travel, so you’ll need to check with those destinations before assuming so.

Covid-19 Antigen test time graphic

COVID-19 Accula Rapid NAAT PCR:

The rapid COVID test offers results available within an hour, often by the 30-minute mark. While it follows similar technology to the gold standard of testing, the RT-PCR is not approved yet by some airlines and destinations as proof of testing. Always check with your destination to determine which test to take to allow your travel to move forward, as some have begun to accept rapid PCR tests.

Covid-19 Accula Rapid test time graphic

COVID-19 RT-PCR:

This rapid PCR test offers results between 24-36 hours on average and is the test of choice for travelers looking to meet more strict requirements set by airlines and destinations. The test is highly accurate and is now covered by some insurance providers. 

Covid-19 RT-PCR test time graphic

Where to get a COVID test in LA

Outside of your regular physician’s office, COVID-19 Los Angeles testing sites vary from walk-up clinics to appointment-only facilities. Reliant’s three tests are available at urgent care locations in Los Angeles, including a convenient LAX Airport Area facility for travelers looking for travel screenings. Same-day and next-day appointments are typically available across testing sites.

Covid-19 test

COVID-19 Vaccine

The vaccine remains the best shot at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19, no matter the variant. All three vaccine types are available throughout Los Angeles County, with booster shot availability expanding week by week. The CDC recommends all three as safe and effective measures against COVID-19.

Woman getting the Covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer Shot

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently available to those 5 years of age and older. It is now the only option that the FDA has approved for people 16 and older. The shot is given in 2 doses, 21 days apart. You will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot.

Moderna Shot

The Moderna vaccine is currently available to those 18 years of age and older. It is given in 2 doses, 28 days apart. You will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot.

Johnson & Johnson Shot

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine is currently available to those 18 years of age and older. It is the only CDC-recommended vaccine available that is given in one dose. You will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your shot.

COVID-19 Booster Shots

Boosters for all three vaccines are currently available and recommended for certain populations. For those who have received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, you are eligible for a booster shot if you are:

  • 65 and older
  • 18+ in a long-term care setting
  • 18+ with underlying medical conditions
  • 18+ in a high-risk setting
  • 18+ and were fully vaccinated at least six months ago

Anyone 18 years of age and older who received the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago is currently eligible for a booster.

Elderly man getting a covid-19 booster shot

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

At this time, the Pfizer shot is the only vaccine available to children ages 5 and up, with recent emergency FDA approval for the 5-11 age group. For children unable to get vaccinated, it is important for them to mask up, especially around those who may be unvaccinated.

Can you still get COVID-19 after vaccine?

No vaccine is 100% effective, and it is impossible to rule out infection as long as there is community spread. Data so far has shown that while it is possible that you can still get COVID-19 post-vaccination, fully vaccinated people are less likely to become infected. 

Most importantly, fully vaccinated people are much less likely to come down with severe complications from COVID.

How common are breakthrough COVID-19 infections?

It is difficult to measure the frequency of breakthrough COVID-19 cases, and available studies have shown varying data. One study that looked at 4 million fully vaccinated people in the first half of 2021 found that about 1 in 5,000 came down with a breakthrough infection.

Woman sick at home with Covid

What are some symptoms of a COVID-19 breakthrough case?

Symptoms of a COVID-19 breakthrough case in a fully vaccinated person are typically much milder than symptoms in the unvaccinated, particularly when it comes to the Delta variant. Those symptoms can include headache, sneezing/runny nose, sore throat and a loss of smell.

How long could breakthrough COVID-19 symptoms last?

In most mild breakthrough cases, symptoms resolve within a few weeks. Studies have shown that the vaccine reduces the risk of long-haul COVID symptoms and complications after infection.

Current COVID-19 Restrictions in LA County

Come November, a new mandate will go into effect requiring proof of vaccination at certain indoor establishments in the city of Los Angeles. That includes bars, shops, gyms and salons. Anyone attending large outdoor events will also need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Los Angeles COVID restrictions outside of the city but within the county are limited to bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries, nightclubs and lounges. Those establishments are required to check that patrons are fully vaccinated by November 4. 

How to keep kids in school safe from COVID-19

As schools across the country reopen, including Los Angeles County, protocols have been put into place to keep kids in school safe from COVID-19. In Los Angeles County, those protocols include:

  • Regular testing schedules: Some districts are offering weekly testing of unvaccinated students to identify infections more effectively. 
  • Positive case protocols: Students who test positive must stay home for ten days after that positive result even if they are not showing symptoms. If they show symptoms, students who test positive must stay home until symptoms improve or have not had a fever for 24 hours. 
  • Contract tracing: In the case of a positive COVID test, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is notified within 24 hours, and contact tracing begins to identify any close contacts with that student. Students who are vaccinated may not need to quarantine even in a close contact situation. 
Covid-19 safety guidelines for school in LA graphic

To reduce exposure to COVID-19, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommends the following for schools within the district:

  • All students should be masked unless they are actively eating or drinking.
  • Maintain seating charts across environments to make contact tracing easier.
  • Use outdoor settings as much as possible, particularly during lunch, PE and recess.
  • Avoid pod/face-to-face seating in the classroom.
  • Promote social distancing outside of the classroom.
  • Provide hand washing/sanitizing opportunities for students throughout the day.
  • Share information with parents about the importance of mask use and these measures.
Kids in school with masks using hand sanitizer

Maintaining a Healthy Work Environment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As some workers return to the office, it’s important to follow some key guidelines to keep workers safe and to keep those offices open.

Covid safety guidelines for Los Angeles workplaces graphic
Covid safety tip for workplaces

COVID-19 Workplace Guidelines for Los Angeles County

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has set several guidelines for employers within the county to follow to keep employees safe:

  • Encourage vaccination.
  • Post COVID safety precautions upon entry to the business.
  • Wear face masks indoors unless actively eating or drinking. 
  • If an employee is unvaccinated, suggest additional safety measures, such as double masking, respirators or face shields.
  • Educate employees about safety protocols and COVID symptoms.
  • Implement a screening process to catch infections.
  • Comply with reporting requirements around positive cases.
  • Improve ventilation throughout the office.
  • Support hand hygiene.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces regularly.
  • Reinforce paid leave policies.
  • Offer remote work options for unvaccinated or high-risk employees.
  • When possible, support physical distancing by offering outdoor lunch options, staggering employee breaks, and posting signage about social distancing.

Return to work plan COVID-19

Businesses must also have a plan in place for employees returning to work after a confirmed COVID infection or possible exposure to someone with COVID.

Unvaccinated, symptomatic employees who have tested positive for COVID must follow the county’s required isolation period. They may return to work following that isolation period ten days after symptoms first started if symptoms have improved and if they have not had a fever for 24 consecutive hours.

Those without symptoms who have tested positive must still stay home for ten days if they become symptomatic. 

Any employee with symptoms that may/may not be COVID-related may return to work if they can show a negative COVID test and/or their healthcare provider determines they do not have COVID. They should also be symptom-free for at least 24 hours before returning to work.

workers wearing masks to adhere with covid safety practices

COVID-19 Protections in the Workplace

Under Los Angeles County guidelines, employers must support safety measures to keep their employees safe during the pandemic. That includes access to sick leave if you test positive for COVID or must take care of an immediate family member who has tested positive for COVID and paid time off to receive the COVID vaccine if you are unvaccinated. 

What you should do if your employees are exposed to COVID-19

Employees exposed to COVID-19 in a close contact situation should quarantine for a period determined by their local safety plan. 

The CDC recommends 14 days as most cautious, but Los Angeles County recommends ten days if self-monitoring shows no symptoms within that time. Employees should have access to telework if they are sent home to quarantine and are not symptomatic.

Office workers during Covid

Tips for Keeping Your Workplace Safe during COVID-19

The county’s guidelines for keeping the workplace safe represent basic measures employers should take to keep a workplace safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional tips from the CDC include:

  • Regular hazard assessments to identify problem spots in the workplace
  • Make requirements on the types of masks to be used indoors
  • Efforts to reduce social interaction, especially indoors
  • Break areas that promote social distancing
  • Employee trainings on how to handle the first sign of symptoms
  • Single-use snack items rather than communal kitchen spaces
  • Reminders for employees to bring their own water
  • Information sharing around where to get vaccinated for ALL employees
  • Regular virtual health checks

Though California has become the state with the lowest transmission rate in the country, it doesn’t mean that we’re in the clear yet. Regular testing, symptoms assessments and following LA county protocols are still important to stop the spread. Book an appointment to schedule a COVID test in Los Angeles or for an exam if you’re exhibiting any Coronavirus symptoms.

Covid-19 FAQs graphic

Protect yourself with the facts around COVID-19. 

Can you get COVID-19 from a vaccine? 

A vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. In the case of mRNA vaccines, the shot triggers an immune response in the body, the science of which has been studied for decades. The vaccine can help prevent new variants from forming and protect you against the worst complications of COVID.

What should I do if I’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19?

If you are unvaccinated, the CDC recommends that you quarantine if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine unless that person is showing symptoms. 

Either way, get tested within a week of exposure and remain masked for up to 14 days after exposure or until you have a negative test result.

How long must I quarantine if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you are not showing symptoms, wait at least ten days following a positive test for COVID-19 before ending your quarantine. Your local health authorities will have additional guidance for you on completing a quarantine before that 10-day mark if you test negative within that time.

Are people who have had COVID-19 immune to reinfection?

People who have had COVID-19 are not immune to reinfection, although reinfection is rare. Studies so far show that antibodies can protect the body from reinfection for at least six months from the point of infection.

How long does immunity last after COVID infection?

Antibody testing up to this point shows that immunity lasts for at least six months after an active COVID infection. More research is needed to determine the longer-term effects of COVID infection on the body.

How long after getting infected will COVID-19 antibodies show up in the test?

Current research shows that antibodies can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to show up on a test after infection. This is why antibody tests are not an effective test in diagnosing current infections.

Can you get COVID again?

While rare, reinfection can happen following full recovery from COVID. Scientists are still learning more about who is most at risk for reinfection, how likely it is and what reinfection means for that person’s immunity.

Is LAX open during the pandemic? Can I travel during the holidays?

LAX is open during the pandemic, and you may travel during the holidays. Always keep up to date with any rules and regulations put in place by both the airline and your destination, as you may be subject to vaccine or testing requirements. If you are in need of a last-minute rapid COVID test for travel, stop by Reliant’s conveniently located urgent care center at LAX.