Is it safe to travel for the holidays in 2020 during the pandemic?

The end of the year is sneaking up, and people are weighing travel plans to join friends and family for the holidays — all against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic.



a group of people walking down the street: There's a lot more to consider when planning holiday travel in 2020.


© Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images
There’s a lot more to consider when planning holiday travel in 2020.

Gathering with others — probably the most universal holiday tradition — has never required so much meticulous forethought.

Should you travel for the holidays in 2020? What precautions will make it safer? Who will be there and how careful have they been?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that travel increases the chances of contracting and spreading Covid-19. Staying home is the best way to protect against getting and spreading the virus, yet many people are likely to travel before the year is over.



a sign on the side of a snow covered car in a parking lot: Driving is not without risks, but your interactions with others can be more easily controlled than with air travel.


© Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images
Driving is not without risks, but your interactions with others can be more easily controlled than with air travel.

CNN spoke with medical experts on how to reduce the risks around holiday travel and when you really should skip it altogether.

Should you travel for the holidays this year?

“Probably not, if you are anxious or vulnerable,” says Dr. Richard Dawood, a travel medicine specialist and director at Fleet Street Clinic in London.

But traveling is fine if you’re willing to be cautious, follow the rules and adapt easily to changes of plan, he said.

“I think the threshold for travel at this time should still be higher than before the pandemic,” says Dr. Henry Wu, director of Emory TravelWell Center and associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.



a statue of a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Staying in a hotel may give guests more control of their environment than staying with friends or relatives.


© Benno Schwinghammer/picture alliance/Getty Images
Staying in a hotel may give guests more control of their environment than staying with friends or relatives.

“If you do choose to travel, try to keep gatherings small and take precautions,” such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene, Wu said.

Who should skip it?

People who are especially vulnerable to severe Covid-19 illness are safest staying home.

“Are you older, are you frail, do you have chronic underlying illnesses?” are the questions to ask, says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

People who are considering meeting up with vulnerable relatives or friends should really weigh the implications of introducing illness to them, Wu said.

“There are well-documented Covid-19 clusters associated with family gatherings, including ones that resulted in deaths,” he said.

Are some locations safer than others?

Gatherings are likely safer in areas around the world where infections remain low, although the standard precautions still apply.



a group of people sitting at a table: Joining hands around a crowded holiday table is best skipped this year.


© Shutterstock
Joining hands around a crowded holiday table is best skipped this year.

For example, it may be possible to have a “relatively normal” Thanksgiving gathering in parts of the United States where infections are very low, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“But in other areas of the

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Which states had the best pandemic response?

For this story, reporters interviewed a wide range of health researchers, public officials and academic experts to ask them which states were standouts in their management of the pandemic. What we heard repeatedly were lessons culled from a handful of states that others could follow.

We’ve distilled their insights into three categories that represent the greatest challenges states are facing: fighting the virus, managing the economic fallout and reopening schools.

FIGHTING THE VIRUS

Leading the way in the rural Northeast

Few states have a record as unblemished as Vermont.

The odds could have been stacked against the state. The virus arrived in Vermont during the first wave sweeping the country. It shares borders with some of the hardest-hit states and has the third-oldest population in the country.

But Vermont swiftly flattened its initial wave and has since gone weeks at a time without any new confirmed infections. Fewer than 60 people have died, giving the state the second-fewest deaths per capita behind Alaska, which has seen surging caseloads in recent weeks. If the country as a whole had the same per capita death rate as Vermont, the nationwide death toll would be 30,000 instead of more than 215,000.

“This should be the model for the country, how you’ve done it,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said during a briefing with state leaders in September. “Notwithstanding that this is a small state, it should be the model of how you get to such a low test positivity that you can actually start opening up the economy in a safe and prudent way.”

While health experts say the state has likely benefited from its rural geography, other sparsely populated areas of the country that let their guard down were overwhelmed by the virus this spring and summer. That sense of complacency never took hold in Vermont, where a moderate Republican governor and a Democratic-led Legislature helped defuse partisan tensions that hampered the response elsewhere.

“Any state that’s going to succeed against Covid has got to have the compliance of the population, because every single thing you do is telling people to alter their personal behavior,” Mark Levine, Vermont’s health commissioner, said in an interview.

What works:

— Vermont reopened slowly. The lockdown it put in place in late March is still gradually being lifted, restaurants and bars are still limited to 50 percent indoor capacity and even outdoor gatherings are still subject to a 150-person limit.

— Local governments have authority to set their own stricter rules. Burlington, the state’s most populous city, reduced its outdoor gathering limit to 25 in late August when college students began returning to nearby campuses.

— The state is also strict about visitors, requiring a two-week quarantine for people arriving from places with higher infection rates. And it invested early in testing and contact tracing and implemented a state-wide mask mandate early on.

“They took action early, they let science lead, and they were consistent

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Utah officials announce new pandemic strategy, mask mandates

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is implementing a new strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic as the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations continued to surge, state officials announced Tuesday.

The state will move away from its color-coded health system and instead place counties under restrictions based on their COVID-19 transmission rates, said Gov. Gary Herbert. Each county will be listed as high, moderate or low level transmission areas.

Six counties — Salt Lake, Utah, Cache, Garfield, Juab and Wasatch — have been designated as high transmission areas. Masks will be required in all indoor settings in these counties, and social gatherings must be limited to 10 people or fewer, said Rich Saunders, acting director of the Utah Department of Health.

In moderate transmission areas, gatherings will be limited to 25 or fewer unless masks are worn, said Saunders. Gatherings will be limited to 50 or fewer in low transmission areas if people don’t wear masks.


As a two-week “circuit breaker,” masks must be worn in all moderate transmission counties until Oct. 29, said Saunders.

Utah has been in the midst of a record-setting surge in reported coronavirus cases over the past month. The state ranks fifth in the country for newly confirmed infections per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Utah’s health department reported a seven-day average of 1,182 new positive test per day on Tuesday, just below Saturday’s record of 1,189.

“We are having one of the worst outbreaks in the country, and this is unacceptable,” Herbert said.

There have been over 87,000 reported virus cases in Utah and 522 people have died, according to state data. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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Even dentist visits go remote during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many in-person activities into remote services delivered over the internet. The latest example is the dreaded visit to the dentist.

Dvora Brandstatter used to drive her son Elchanan half an hour to the orthodontist and back every month to make sure his braces were working properly. Now, from the comfort of her home in Bergenfield, New Jersey, she attaches a special scope to her smartphone camera, opens an app and inserts the contraption into the 11-year-old’s mouth. A video of the boy’s choppers is sent to his dentist, who checks progress, diagnoses any issues and sometimes ends the appointment right there.

“As a parent, having fewer appointments is a good thing,” Brandstatter said. “I haven’t seen a downside so far. It’s probably the way everything is moving anyway.”

The app and the scope were created last year by New Jersey-based startup Grin. After the pandemic hit, Chief Executive Officer and dentist Adam Schulhof said the company sped up development of the technology and partnered with manufacturer 3M to quickly distribute it to as many orthodontists as possible. About 5,000 units have shipped out and roughly 1,000 patients have used the system so far, according to Grin.

Schulhof, who uses the system for his own practice, said the coronavirus has spurred huge demand for new procedures that help people reduce the close contact that typically happens when they visit the dentist. The CDC has warned that dental instruments create spray that can contain droplets of water, saliva, blood and other debris, and has advised the use of “teledentistry” as an alternative to in-office care.

When the Grin videos arrive at the dentist’s office, other software from the startup helps practitioners analyze the condition of the teeth and integrates the footage with existing patient management systems. The app also lets patients see what the dentist sees inside their mouth. Not for the faint of heart.

There are already new, internet-focused dental services that Grin is going up against. Companies such as SmileDirectClub mail invisible aligners and braces to consumers. SmileDirectClub shares have more than doubled since the middle of March. Schulfhof said Grin’s offering is aimed at fighting the challenge to conventional dentistry from such direct-to-consumer offerings. “We’re trying to disrupt the disrupters,” he added.

In the short term, the technology will help orthodontists keep their businesses running while many patients avoid the dentist’s office completely, the CEO said. As smartphone capabilities improve and the software develops, Schulhof expects Grin’s scope to use artificial intelligence image analysis to become a more powerful diagnostic tool for dentists.

The CEO also sees the technology gaining traction in general dentistry where insurance companies may back its use. People’s teeth decay at different rates and more regular, remote checks, could be used to identify problems before they require more complicated and expensive treatment at in-person visits every six months, he said.

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What to do if you need to see your dentist during the pandemic

What to do if you need to see your dentist during the pandemic

The president of Quebec’s order of dentists drills down

From CBC News · See the original article here

Dental visits are cancelled for everything except emergencies right now, but if you are experiencing a dental issue, start by calling your clinic. (Attila Kisbendek/AFP via Getty Images)

Dentists’ offices have been closed for all but dire emergencies during the coronavirus pandemic. But chipped teeth, toothaches and other dental issues don’t respect the shutdown.

So what happens then? CBC’s Sonali Karnick spoke with Dr. Guy Lafrance, president of Quebec’s order of dentists, on Saturday’s All In A Weekend.

How should people get in touch with their dentist?

First of all, we do it by phone. If the clinic does not answer the phone, just leave a message on the answering machine. They should check messages regularly, so the dentist will phone you and try to figure out if it’s a real emergency.

What counts as a real emergency?

Severe pain. Pain that cannot be controlled with the painkiller that you buy off the shelf at the drugstore. Infection, redness, swelling, prolonged bleeding, uncontrolled bleeding. Oral trauma — at this time of the year, this is quite frequent because the kids are starting to bicycle, because it’s springtime. So sometimes they fall, and then maybe they have a helmet, but they can still injure their teeth. So this is an emergency that needs to be taken care of right away.

Dr. Guy Lafrance, president of Quebec’s order of dentists, says any dental issue should begin with a call to your dentist. (Ordre des dentistes du Québec)

What if you have a COVID-19 infection?

We’ll ask you a couple of questions — the regular questions: if you have a cough, a fever or if you’ve made contact with people with the COVID-19 virus.

Then, over the phone, we will try to figure out if you can be treated with a prescription. That’s the best situation. If your situation can be treated with a prescription, you can arrange for your prescription over the phone with the pharmacy. Maybe the pharmacist will be able to deliver the medication to your place.

But some people have the COVID-19 virus, and they do have a dental emergency. It doesn’t happen that frequently, but it could happen. That’s why the government has designated centres, mostly hospitals, that can take care of those people with the virus right now.

What if your clinic is in a building that has been closed?

You should be able to phone them. They may tell you to go somewhere else — a colleague, another clinic in your neighbourhood.

What can someone do if they need emergency care and can’t reach their regular dentist?

Don’t go to the hospital. They’re so busy right now. Go to the website of the Ordre des dentistes du Québec, maboucheensante.com, and we have a list of

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Florida braces for presidential primary amid a health pandemic

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic on Wednesday, state election officials have made a number of changes, from relocating polling sites to encouraging more early voting, to protect the health of the state’s 4 million people who are over the age of 65 and represent one-fifth of the total population of the state.

“Our recommendation would be if there’s a polling location in assisted living facility, allow the residents to vote there,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference on Wednesday. “But maybe the general public should have the option or be directed to go to a different polling location.”

Some of the changes being implemented by election officials across the state include relocating polling sites away from assisted living senior communities.

Hillsborough County, on the west coast of the state, immediately announced changes to polling locations that were set to be at large assisted senior living communities.

The county also has prepped extra staff in the event poll workers drop out on election day because they fear exposure to the virus.

“We’ve trained an extra group of people that are ready to work on election day if needed. Our staffing levels are good, and our locations are good. This is a very fluid situation, I can’t see if there will be more changes or not, but things right now are very manageable,” Gerri Kramer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman, told CNN.

At least two senior poll workers in the county have already dropped out of working on March 17 because of “compromised health situations,” Kramer noted.

Election officials in Pinellas County, another area of Florida located on the Gulf of Mexico, has implemented similar measures, as elderly poll workers begin to drop out due to fears of being exposed to the virus, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

State election officials have also stressed early voting and vote-by-mail options for those who want to be extra safe. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee on Tuesday tweeted a reminder to voters that they can drop off their vote-by-mail ballots up until 7 p.m. on election day or choose to vote early up until one day before the primary.

Early voting in some counties started as early as March 2. Florida’s Democratic voters have a history of coming out ahead of election day. In 2016, more than 2 million Democratic voters had already cast their ballot out of the states estimated 12 million voters three days ahead of the presidential primary

Additionally, election officials this week were supplied with hygiene guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which included washing of hands, using hand sanitizer and wiping down voting machines.

The Florida State Department provided county election officials with information and guidance on recommended precautions, which included wiping down voting equipment and practicing frequent hand hygiene.

Still, such health precautions have caused unintended consequences elsewhere. In one county in New Hampshire, the use of too much hand sanitizer clogged ballot machines during
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Coronavirus Chicago: Woodlawn dentist Dr. Ogbonna Bowden provides relief for dental emergencies, despite pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) — With a fractured tooth, one South Shore resident couldn’t wait.

“By this weekend, extreme pain. I was extremely uncomfortable,” said Kortney Mims.

Mims got her temperature checked and found careful safety protocol at My Dental Gallery, including a device that limits contact during dental procedures.

“That reduces the aerosol by 90%, and we have our regular PPE to protect us from whatever comes out of the patient’s mouth,” said Dr. Ogbonna Bowden from My Dental Gallery.

“I’m just very grateful they could get me in and take care of me at such a crazy time,” Mims said. “I have a huge smile underneath this mask I’m so happy and I’m so relieved.”

Bowden closed his three dental offices but is seeing patients with dental emergencies at his Woodlawn office on63rd Street.

“It’s natural, if you have pain, natural you would go to the ER, but we don’t front line workers dealing with dental emergencies when pandemic is going on,” Bowden said.

Bowden says those with dental emergencies coming to an ER would likely not get treatment for the dental problem, only pain meds to address symptoms.

While Bowden does his part to help those in pain, his business struggles with 90% fewer patients. He is now using personal reserves to keep staff on part-time and pay for their health insurance.

“I may have to cash in 401K, whatever is needed to make sure everyone is okay and this business still stands in this community is everything to me,” Bowden said.

Applications for local and federal money have been submitted, so for now, Bowden is doing what he can for patients and staff.

Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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Philadelphia Eagles owner contributes $1 million to Penn Medicine to fight COVID-19 pandemic

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie today announced a $1 million contribution to Penn Medicine to establish the COVID-19 Immunology Defense Fund, laying the foundation for the world’s foremost experts to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The funds will support both an emerging research program to test front-line health care workers for potential immunity to COVID-19, as well as provide flexibility for Penn Medicine’s researchers–who have overseen the world’s most seminal advances harnessing the power of the immune system to fight disease–to develop real-time research protocols to battle the disease.

The contribution provided by Lurie offers the opportunity for Penn’s leaders to address critically emerging needs as the pandemic evolves. Top priorities range from developing rapid diagnostic testing, to finding drugs that work against the virus, to developing potential vaccines. In the coming days, serology tests will be deployed across multiple research studies, including for health care workers and recovered COVID-19 patients, helping scientists to determine if a person has antibodies against the virus, which could help to enhance hospitals’ knowledge about which staff may be immune to the disease. These critical projects will enhance understanding of how to protect frontline health care workers, and drive knowledge to advance options for treatments and vaccines in the crucial months ahead.

We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that is affecting all of us in so many ways. Every passing day brings new stories of heartbreaking tragedy, inspirational courage, and hopeful innovation. We can and will get through this, but only if we work together, care for each other, and focus our attention and resources towards sustainable strategies. There are so many individuals and organizations who are making daily sacrifices, and we are incredibly thankful for their dedication and bravery. We must continue to support these efforts in every way that we can, while also seeking a solution that will help us move forward.


We have reached a critical point in our fight against COVID-19 in which testing for antibodies is absolutely essential both to protect our front-line workers in the short term and to develop treatments and vaccines that will save lives and help defeat the virus. With that in mind, I am proud to offer my support to Penn Medicine’s research efforts by establishing the COVID-19 Immunology Defense Fund. This fund will aid Penn’s multi-disciplinary approach in immunology, merging research in diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccine development. Researchers from those three areas will work hand- in- hand and rely upon one another to create an immediate and lasting impact both locally and worldwide.”


Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles owner

Armed with the largest single-institution immunology community in the country, Penn has notched a string of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals for immune-based therapies in the past three years. Penn’s best-in-class infrastructure — from well-established bench-to-bedside pipelines, to high-level biosafety facilities to test treatments with live virus– has led its immunologists to international renown for the discovery,

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