Is it safe to travel this weekend? Here’s what the experts say

For many Americans itching to finally bid farewell to the colder months, Memorial Day weekend is a highly-anticipated time to celebrate the beginning of summer, by way of backyard barbecues, outdoor gatherings, and of course countryside road trips to the beach.

But this weekend, as the novel coronavirus continues to affect communities across the country at an alarming rate, things are going to look a little different—whether you choose to stay at home, hit the road, or head to the beach or park.

“Going to an uncrowded beach with your social cohort or ‘quaranteam’ can be a safe and fun experience,” Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious diseases specialist at Columbia University, told CNN last month. “The challenge is limiting the number of people on the beach so social distancing can be done.”

Health experts continue to recommend wearing a mask, respecting social distancing, and avoiding crowds whenever possible… but unfortunately, as much as you may think you’ll be able to respect the health and safety rules put in place, there’s no way to ensure others around you will also enforce them.

“My experience of beaches is that unless the beaches are remote, you will find real difficulty in keeping to the six-foot rule,” Griffin said.

So, what about all those remote travel itineraries floating around that suggest vast countrysides and small towns where it’s easy to respect social distancing? While this might seem like a safe road trip for you or your family to embark on, leaving your city or town to visit a remote location still endangers the lives of those who live in the towns you’re visiting—who may not have the procedures in place to handle an unexpected and unnecessary outbreak.

In fact, residents of these small towns are urging those with itchy feet to think outside of their own family’s well being and consider what could happen if they unknowingly transmit the virus to a small town or community. “Even though states are starting to reopen, medical infrastructures in small towns like mine that serve as a gateway to a national park are still not equipped to handle a deadly, fast-spreading virus,” Ali Wunderman, a freelance writer living outside of Glacier National Park in Montana, told Ladders.

While it might be tempting to pack up the car and head to a neighboring state or community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also continues to urge Americans to stay home and avoid nonessential travel—even if we’re no longer in strict confinement—and as much as we wish the pandemic was phasing out sooner, it’s really not safe or responsible to travel this holiday weekend. If you’re still comfortable enough to consider taking a risk and going on a road trip, take a moment to consider the lives of others that you may be indirectly putting in danger and make the responsible decision for them.

“I hope that my fellow Americans will not choose to sacrifice our actual human lives for the sake of a long weekend,” Wunderman urged.

The good news is that we will eventually be able to travel again—and the more people who stay home now and practice responsible social distancing, the sooner we’ll be able to hit the road (or hop on a plane) with a clear conscience.

In the meantime, there are plenty of fun and safe ways to quell your wanderlust and celebrate the start of summer from home, whether that means enjoying a barbecue in your backyard, crafting some summer-friendly cocktails, or getting some fresh air and exercise in your own neighborhood.