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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Travel to Mexico During the 2nd Wave of COVID-19

Yes, we decided to travel during the pandemic; and we didn’t get COVID-19.


While we did travel at the end of December 2020, right at the beginning of the discovery and concern of the U.K. and South African strains, this was our particular snapshot in time in regards to travelling during COVID-19.


The government (especially here in Canada) has had travel advisories since the start of the pandemic saying that individuals should not travel outside of the country, or even their province, except for essential reasons. This rhetoric and the type of travel restrictions imposed implies that travelling outside of the country is THE cause and continual exacerbator of the pandemic. Some of the travel policies implemented include 14-day quarantines upon return into the country, and as of Jan. 7 and proof of a negative Covid test to enter Canada. [Later in January of 2021, there have been additional threats to shut down travel due to the new Covid strains.]


While it can’t be denied that travel was one of the main sources of the spread of the virus at the very beginning, since then there have been strong measures implemented to contain the spread, especially within the travel industry. The messaging that ‘travel is the main evil’ is the wrong rhetoric. In a majority of cases, I would argue that you have as much risk of contracting the Coronavirus at home, if not more, than you do travelling.


While I realize travel is not for everyone during these uncertain times, as a family who falls into the lower risk category, we evaluated the statistics and made a decision we felt would be safe & effective for us, as well as any people we might cross paths. We were also committed to following all regulations upon arrival back home to mitigate the risk to others.


First of all, before you say that we are skeptics or don’t believe in the science of Covid-19, let me explain. We do believe in science and we have followed all the of the provincial and federal restrictions that have been put in place to protect the people of the province. We always wear masks when we go out (have since the beginning!), we wash our hands and we limit gathering with people – the 3 main proven ways to protect yourself against the virus. However, both my husband and I have jobs within sectors of the travel industry. We have seen firsthand the destruction that Covid has done to this industry in particular. It is also the industry that will likely have the longest recovery. In order to have this industry make its way through on the other side, we need people to eventually feel safe to travel again. Therefore, we wanted to take this opportunity to share our first-hand experience to show the ‘other side’ of the story that the government and the media do not share.


Evaluating the Facts & Risks of Home vs. Travelling

First of all, we didn’t take the decision lightly. We had been watching things for months and were even prepared to pull out at the last minute if needed, as we were just doing standby travel. However, we weighed all the factors and ultimately, we felt that we could travel safely during the pandemic. Let me break down the numbers for you.


1. Our ‘Extended’ Circle at Home vs. Travel Circle:

We started to look at our circle of contacts at home and very quickly realized that our circle of contacts wasn’t as small as it seemed. For instance, even if you only limit yourself to one other cohort family, your extended contacts multiply. If you take our family with two kids and then another family with two kids, and you figure that each of those kids has about 20 students in their classroom, plus the contacts each adult has at work, our family probably had an extended circle of about 50-70 people. While the Alberta government significantly cut down the gatherings/contacts that each family was able to have in late November, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re more likely to let up your guard (i.e. not wearing masks, sharing items, etc) with individuals you know than individuals you do NOT know.


Our Travel Circle

When we go travelling, we don’t know any one so our circle is significantly smaller – our close contacts on this trip was merely just the 4 of us – same as what it would have been if we stayed home in Alberta during the ‘no outside your immediate family restrictions – indoors or outdoors” that were implemented in December. Also, if you have read any of our other travel adventures, you know that we don’t join tour groups, we don’t travel with others and we don’t do travel trips like cruises, stay at resorts or rarely stay at hotels. These would be the type of travel practices that lend itself to spreading Covid more easily. Our interaction with others while traveling was essentially no different than the interaction we have with other people when we go shopping here at home.


Here is a Table that shows source of exposure by type here in Alberta, but as you can see the travel exposure is a flat line.

2. Positivity Rate within the Community vs. Those Returning from Travel

Positivity Rate within the Community:

During the month of December here in Alberta, the positivity rate of all Covid-19 tests in the province hovered between 7-9% positivity.


Positivity Rate of Albertans Returning from Travel:

In November, the Alberta government, in conjunction with the Federal Government, agreed to run a Pilot Test program at the Calgary Airport for international travelers (lucky for us it was at our home airport!). The program required that upon arrival to the Calgary Airport you get a test taken and have to self-isolate/quarantine until you get the results back (typically 24-48 hours after). After the first test you cannot gather with others of more than 10 people, not attend school/childcare, not visit any senior homes, etc. Then you get a second test 6-7 days after your arrival date; when that comes back 24-48 hours later you are able to resume normal operations. There is also a requirement to do daily health checks for the full 14 days.


After 6 weeks of running the program, 14,382 travelers had taken part in the program and there was only a 1.4 percent positivity rate after the initial swab. After the second swab 6-7 days later, the infection rate was only .7 percent. Even after two months of the program, the statistics remained largely unchanged: after nearly 24,000 people are tested there was only 1.5 percent positivity after the first test, and after the second test it was a positivity rate of 1.14 percent. These travelers came from a variety of destinations, but it shows that the number of cases coming from travel are low and aren’t the main drivers of infection.


*Update: As of Jan. 25, the Pilot Program was changed and even after the first test results, you have to remain in isolation until you get the test results back from the second test. However, after these 2nd test results, you still cannot go to work, school, etc. for the full 14-days. This was largely changed due to the new strains from the U.K. and South Africa.


3. Close Proximity to Others on Airplanes: Masks are now mandatory in the airports and on the airplanes; plus, the air filtration systems on the airplanes are some of the best you can get in an indoor space. Research has found that contracting Covid-19 on a flight is about the same as being struck as lightening if you’re wearing a mask. With the air filtration & circulation system on the planes it would take a minimum of 54 hours of sitting next to someone with Covid-19 to get infected.


Our COVID Friendly Travel Destination Checklist

Taking these facts and statistics into consideration, we then examined the risk factors of contracting Covid-19, which are widely known as being in group settings, not wearing a mask, and not physical distancing. Based on these we created a ‘check-list’ for potential destinations that would allow for relatively safe travel during the pandemic.


The characteristics included:


(1) Places that we could spend most of our time outside with little crowding of people;


(2) Somewhere we could stay in a house/apartment, where we wouldn’t be sharing any space with others;


(3) Open-air restaurants options. There has not been any instances in which Covid has been transferred by food or food preparation; therefore, the environment of the space that you are eating in, is the bigger consideration. Therefore, as long as you are distancing from other patrons and servers are wearing masks you significantly cut down on risk, and an open-air space is the safest of all.


(4) A destination that would be covered if we purchased Covid-19 insurance. After extensive research and reviewing the fine print, we found that several travel insurance companies would not cover any Covid-related expenses if you travel to a country that is rated as a Level 3 or higher by the CDC. The majority of these insurance policies were created in the Spring of 2020, prior to the 2nd wave, when overall Covid cases were flat and most countries were only CDC Level 1 or 2. This means, although the policies are still available for purchase, only a select few actually qualify for travel coverage during the CDC Level 3/4 advisory that we have in place today.


One company we found and confirmed to completely cover us during both the Government advisory to avoid travel, and the CDC Level 4 advisory, was Goose Insurance. They're a Vancouver based company with excellent online reviews, who provide policies through an online app. Covid policies start at $99 per person for up to 1 year of unlimited trips (30 days or less per trip). Many companies only offer coverage for a single trip, so we liked the idea of being covered for an entire year, regardless when and where we travel. It's also handy to have for inter-provincial travel within Canada. We opted for the Family Plan, for $249, it covered all four of us whether we travel individually, or together. It's valid worldwide for 365 days. You can travel as many times as you like, up to 30 days away from home per trip. If you're interested in learning more about Goose Insurance Covid-19 Pandemic Insurance, please consider using our affiliate link.


(5) Finally, a place that isn’t highly populated or doesn’t have a high caseload of Covid-19 in that vicinity. We also made a change to our normal travel routine. Typically, on a trip we visit a place for 2-3 nights and then move onto another area of the country to visit. However, for this trip we knew that we needed to stay in one spot for the duration of the trip.

Therefore, we evaluated where we might be able to go to without having to quarantine on arrival (as we’d have to quarantine on arrival back to Canada) and arrived at Yelapa, Mexico. Yelapa is a small fishing village just south of Puerta Vallarta and is only accessible by boat; therefore, it is naturally cut off and supposedly there have been no positive Covid cases there. (However, I do realize the number of cases is dependent on the number of people being tested, which I’m not sure what that statistic would be.) We also cut-down on our contacts with others before going, which ended up being pretty easy as the government imposed additional gathering restrictions the couple of weeks before our departure.


Continue to follow along on our Yelepa series to learn about our time visiting there over Christmas.

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