BY DR TOM ERVIN – It is fall again. The wind is freshening and more from the north. There is a morning chill, and the lazy days of summer are becoming shorter. It is time to find the sweater drawer. And it is time to think about the return to Boca Grande.
Normally, the prospect of the return south would be a pleasant event. But with COVID-19 not yet in the rear-view mirror, there are additional issues to consider and prepare for.
It all starts with travel. What are the new rules of reentry and social behavior? It is important to all concerned that one’s return to Boca Grande, or anywhere else, is done with full understanding and regard for the continued threat of the pandemic.
Assuming that the returning persons are well, there are guidelines for both traveling and after you travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to update the community guidelines in accordance with the degree of disease activity and the scientific understanding of the pandemic as it evolves. Please consult the CDC.gov website for specific guidance regarding travel and reentry.
Although it seems like an eternity since COVID-19 struck, it is really only six to eight months ago that we were asked to change our behavior in an attempt to control the pandemic. Some of the changes are becoming routine to many, but not all participate. We must all emphasize community safety in our daily behavior.
So, at the risk of being repetitive, here are the current basics for coming back to Boca Grande.
Before you travel
• Do not travel if you are ill.
• Do not travel with someone else who is ill.
• Find out the activity level of COVID-19 at your destination as well as all planned travel stops along the way.
• Do not travel if you were exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days of travel.
When you travel
Remember that travel of any type increases the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Protect yourself and others.
• Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public facilities.
• Where possible, avoid close contact, adhering to the six-foot distancing recommendation.
• Avoid unnecessary touches.
• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
These behaviors have become the new standard for most public settings. The evidence for the effectiveness of wearing face masks and social distancing is supported by the CDC and the World Health Organization.
In addition, anticipate your travel needs. Make sure you have enough medicine for the entire trip. Avoid unnecessary travel stops when possible.
But let’s go on. It is time to get to Boca Grande at last.
When you arrive
Check the status of COVID-19 activity for Florida (currently getting better as of this writing), and for Boca Grande specifically (33921 zip code on the Florida COVID-19 website). Remember that you and your arriving family pose a risk to your friends and community for 14 days after arrival, so maintain routine protective social behavior. If you arrive in Boca Grande with increased risk, consider extra protective measures. You might quarantine for 14 days or consider being tested. More information will be coming on testing options in the near future.
You might ask what constitutes increased risk. Increased risk is considered if:
1. You travel from an area or state with CDC Level 3 Health Travel Notice. Level 3 is defined as “COVID-19 risk is high.” This information is available on the CDC website; see Travel Health Notices.
2. You have been at a large social gathering, sporting event, wedding or concert within 14 days of travel.
3. You have spent extended time in crowded airports.
4. You have traveled on a cruise ship or river boat within 14 days of your travel to Florida.
Air travel in and of itself, while of some theoretical risk, is not considered of high risk due to better spacing and improvements in air circulation and filtration systems.
So, there you are. You are back in beautiful, quiet Boca Grande. Please have a happy and healthy 2020-2021 season, but continue to protect yourself, your family, and your friends on this wonderful island. To take the Boca Grande Pledge, please go to the Clinic’s website, BGHC.org and sign up anytime.