Summer Travel During COVID: Open With Vigilance

By: TJ Edmund, Special to Follow South Jersey

NATIONAL PARK, N.J. – Last year, residents throughout New Jersey were met with tremendous challenges as they were among those across the nation and around the world devastated by the global health emergency and all its complications. Moving forward in 2021, even with the Delta variant of COVID-19, industries that saw some dark days are now on the rebound as more individuals and their families are vacationing by road and airline this summer season.

Anthony DeVincenzo works at an engineering firm in Cherry Hill and said that he has traveled three times total in the midst of the pandemic. Describing the few instances when he took a trip, he replied that he drove to the Outer Banks in North Carolina once this past summer, flew on a plane to Dallas, Texas in November 2020, and finally he traveled by air again on the way to Tampa/Clearwater, Florida in March of this year.

Both times on the plane, DeVincenzo stated that he was required to wear a face covering but that the rides proved to cause distress because the covering had to remain on until the plane landed; this made the overall experience very uncomfortable for him. On the topic of wearing masks he remarked, “I would not mind the requirement of wearing a mask temporarily, if I was not so sure that governments would continue to bring back the mandate whenever they feel like doing so.” The year 2020 brought a lot of uncertainty as a result of the number of local and national shutdowns and the guidelines from the governments were received with mixed emotions. The flights to Texas and Tampa/Clearwater were at full capacity and by DeVincenzo’s account, the airports experienced substantially more foot traffic in March 2021 than what would normally be expected the week of Thanksgiving.

In Dallas, there were no restrictions due to COVID-19 as the only places DeVincenzo entered was the residence of a friend, mini-marts, and a game processing center. The surrounding areas of Clearwater mandated masks within public spaces but he observed that the Airbnb he rented for his time there and elsewhere besides indoor public spaces, face coverings were not a requirement.

Karissa Anderson, the recruiter at SJ Transportation located in Woodstown drove to Charleston, South Carolina for a few days, early last month to celebrate the first-year anniversary with her husband, Chase. The two spent Fourth of July weekend exploring Charleston together and remembering their first year as husband and wife. Anderson mentioned that there were no restrictions at the time of their trip but that she brought a mask just to be safe, but she said that she did not have to wear it at all.

In March 2021 when the guidelines were still in place, she flew on a plane to Peoria, Illinois and noted for the most part, the plane was close to full capacity at that point. When asked about having to wear a mask on the plane, Anderson noted, “Regardless, I’d happily wear a mask in order to take a flight.’’ Detailed in an Air Travel Consumer Report from March 21, 2021, by the U.S. Department of Transportation, “The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in significant changes to airline schedules and operations in March 2021, although airlines scheduled and operated the most flights in March 2021 than any month since March 2020.” While the travel industry has not fully recovered from the early dawn of the Coronavirus, March 2021 demonstrated significant gains compared to the same time last year.

April Gould, a hair stylist at Envy Salon & Spa in Westville noted that her family has gone on vacation twice since the travel restrictions were lifted earlier this year. Both times, she said that they drove to Cherrystone Family Camping Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia stopping only a few times to take short breaks and refresh before getting back in the car.

When her family went last summer and when they went back a few weeks ago, Gould pointed out that on either trip, there really were not any tight restrictions (mask mandates, reduced public capacities, shuttered venues). In fact, she affirmed that the recreation areas around the resort such as the pools, bike/boat rentals, and the playgrounds were all easily accessible and came with no limitations.

A bunch of activities were happening all around the resort for families to participate in: Gould listed that there was karaoke, a cornhole tournament, and some other fun games for kids and their families to play. While purchasing some souvenirs in the area near the resort, she indicated that there were signs in some of the store windows showing the ease of restrictions and the measure doing away with face coverings in retail and other community places. Gould expressed, “We did take a public bus into town to do some souvenir shopping and came across a few stores with signs in the window about doing away with masks. The entire time we were there we never heard anyone ask for proof of vaccine.” She concluded by commenting that her family had an amazing time on their summer vacation to the camping resort.

As the fight to combat this pandemic continues, individuals must remain aware of their health and the well-being of others. With the vaccine and constant monitoring, the American people have begun to live their lives again and even though the world has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, this summer has displayed a distinct growth in travel by road and by air rivalled with last year when the world was thrust into a crisis of well-being and preserving overall physical and emotional health.

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