Authorities and students hopeful that decreasing COVID numbers will permit summer travel

An+infographic+outlines+Oregon%E2%80%99s+total+number+of+COVID-19+cases+from+Mar.+1+to+May+11%2C+2021.+Many+students+hope+numbers+will+continue+to+decrease+in+time+for+summer+traveling%2C+but+the+Oregon+Health+Authority+still+urges+Oregonians+to+avoid+non-essential+travel+for+now.%0A

Graphic by Holden Kilbane

An infographic outlines Oregon’s total number of COVID-19 cases from Mar. 1 to May 11, 2021. Many students hope numbers will continue to decrease in time for summer traveling, but the Oregon Health Authority still urges Oregonians to avoid non-essential travel for now.

Isabella Lo

According to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), weekly cases of COVID-19 are currently decreasing, but hospitalizations and deaths are rising. 

Despite this, as of May 19, Oregon has administered over 3.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and around 49.5% of all Oregonians have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

In a recent interview with the Cardinal Times, however, OHA staff urged caution regarding summer travel.

Jonathan Modie, Lead Communications Officer for OHA’s Public Health Division, said that the OHA is asking people to avoid non-essential traveling for the time being. 

“We are far from being out of the woods,” Modie said. “We recognize that [travel is] something that people are wanting to do, […] but we are actually asking people to continue to seriously reconsider any travel plans in the near future.” 

This includes traveling out-of-state and out of the country, especially via public transport, like planes and trains, where there is an increased risk for transmission. 

Despite this recommendation to avoid non-essential travel, Modie explained that OHA Director Patrick Allen and Governor Kate Brown have expressed hope that the state can reopen early summer, but COVID-19 case numbers will dictate this. 

“I think there is definitely reason for hope,” said Modie, mentioning the millions of people who have received vaccines. “We are reaching a point where we will have enough vaccines to give a shot to any Oregonian 16 and older who wants it. We recognize that it’s difficult to find vaccine appointments sometimes, but every day it is getting better.” 

With being asked to avoid non-essential travel, some students are wondering what they can do this summer. 

Sophomore Eva Novy-Hildesley recognizes that OHA’s recommendation may be tough for some people. 

“I think it’s really tricky because on one hand we need to have a collective mindset of ‘we’re in this together, let’s all play our part,’ but on the other hand I think everyone is starting to really struggle mentally and feel cooped up,” she said. 

Novy-Hildesley has plans to go to a summer camp and travel to the Galapagos to volunteer this summer. She will be fully vaccinated and following plane protocol. She also thinks there are plenty of activities for people to do this summer that follow Oregon’s guidelines, such as backpacking, camping, going to mountains and other outdoor activities. 

This corresponds with Modie’s recommendations. He also recommends checking the CDC’s guidance for traveling domestically or internationally, and checking state department websites or country restrictions before traveling. 

“If you do travel to other states, we recommend you stay close to home, but if you do need to travel to other states, check those other states’ requirements for traveling to those areas,” Modie said. 

Like Modie, Novy-Hildesley also believes it’s important to stay hopeful. 

“We have to maintain enough hope to get through it and stay mentally healthy but also not get overly hopeful that we keep getting disappointed,” she said. “I think given that everyone’s getting vaccinated, once the percentage of fully-vaccinated people goes up enough, the light at the end of the tunnel will feel closer.” 

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