Northeast Ohioans prepare for overseas trips despite rising COVID cases, omicron variant

Coronavirus

(WJW) – Even as COVID-19 cases soar and the omicron variant spreads rapidly around the world, some people are still eager to travel.

John Carroll University sophomore Josephine Schierloh is part of a group of students preparing for a two-day trip to the Arizona/Mexico border during winter break in January.

She is one of several students traveling to various parts of the world who came to the Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine inside University Hospitals.

“This will be my first time abroad since COVID,” Schierloh said.

Like her classmates, Schierloh is fully vaccinated for COVID, but came to the clinic to receive other vaccinations for things like typhoid fever and hepatitis A.

“I feel pretty good because there’s a requirement to get vaccinated to go on the Immersion, so everyone will be vaccinated,” she said.

“Traveling, if you take precautions, doesn’t really increase your risk for COVID…. You wear a mask at the airport, being on a plane is actually pretty safe. Planes have great air circulation, so the real risk in terms of traveling is at the airport and boarding,” said Dr. Keith Armitage, director of the Roe Green Center at UH.

He says the rapid spread of the omicron COVID variant shouldn’t be a deterrent to traveling if you take necessary precautions.

“It’s funny because when South Africa said we have omicron, people said, ‘Well, shut down travel.’ Well now, it’s everywhere, it’s in multiple locations in the United States,” said Dr. Armitage.

“We’re just concerned just if we’re going to be able to go. Obviously we really want to, but we’re going to get tested before we go, we’re going to get tested when we get there and then before coming back to the U.S.,” said John Carroll senior, Sara, who did not want to give her last name.

Sara and junior Katie Debord are part of a group spending the break learning more about the culture in El Salvador.

“El Salvador actually has a lot of COVID protocols put in place, like everyone willl get our temperature taken before you go into any building, hand sanitizer, everyone wears their mask,” said Debord.

But Dr. Armitage says the spread of the omicron variant is creating a fluid travel situation.

“Buying travel insurance for a really expensive trip like to Africa or Asia is not a bad idea. There’s also a risk if you travel that you could test positive before you come back and have to quarantine,” he said.

According to University Hospitals, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health travel clinic is closed and the Roe Green Center at UH is one of the only travel clinics still operating in Northeast Ohio.

They help individuals, families, corporations and other groups safely prepare for traveling abroad.

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