NIH director skips South Carolina beach vacation, warns public about coronavirus travel risks

NIH director skips South Carolina beach vacation, warns public about coronavirus travel risks

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins knows you're tired of being cooped up in the house for more than a dozen weeks — but that doesn't mean it's time to break your quarantine and travel just yet.

"I know people are really hoping to have a chance to get out and do something besides sitting at home like I am right now for the 13th week in a row," Collins said during a USA TODAY editorial board meeting on Tuesday. "But at the same time, that does come with certain consequences, and particularly for people who have greater vulnerability because of age or chronic disease, I would think that ought to be taken with great seriousness."

He said that if you look at the numbers, there's no question that the number of cases hastrended upward over the last few weeks and more than half of U.S. states are seeing an uptick in daily infections. However, Collins said that while the number of deaths is still dropping (a fact that should not be glossed over), the hundreds of people who are dying are still "people who shouldn't have died and who did."

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, seen here at the White House on May 7, says,

He said Americans shouldn't be too complacent as the case curve heads upward, since there's a delay between the relationship of new cases and when you start to see more deaths.

"I'm kind of holding my breath here that we don't see the curve of deaths start back up again," Collins said. "I hope and pray that does not happen."

Those looking to travel will have to make their own benefit/risk calculation. "As long as this virus is circulating in our country, and as long as we have not yet developed a vaccine that can protect people, then making a decision about what you're doing today is going to play out in terms of that benefit and risk," Collins said.

That includes everything from just going out in public to getting on a plane, despite efforts to minimize risks. Airlines and hotels have administered intense cleaning regimens and policies to help stop the spread of coronavirus and lure travelers again, and cruise lines remain suspended in the U.S.

How much coronavirus risk is there in common travel activities? We asked an expert

Collins' own beach trip to South Carolina is now on hold. The number of confirmed new cases in the state is growing: 6,288 for the seven days ending June 22, up from 4,578 the week before.

"As a grandfather and a guy who hoped to have a beach week with my grandkids and my daughters coming up in about a month, we're not doing it," he said. "It just didn't seem like it was going to be a wise circumstance given that the family's all over the country and some of them live in hot spots. And there would be no way to know if we all assemble in some big, rambling beach house that somebody wasn't bringing a virus to the party."

He added that it's ultimately a personal decision: "Everybody has to size up their own risks, figuring out what is the current spread of the virus in their communities."

If you do decide to travel:Airports welcome back travelers with new rules, protocols and promises

Tips here, too:Traveling again? Leisure and business travelers share tips to stay safe from coronavirus


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