Returning to Ohio from Your Winter Residence – COVID-19 Safety
For many, spring marks the return to your primary residence after spending the winter months in warmer climates.
During these times of social distancing and store closures, the drive home is likely full of unknowns. Where can you stop for fuel, food and shelter, and how do you approach it safely? Are you allowed to travel, and what must you do once you return?
Health officials are still advising Americans to avoid all nonessential travel. So, if you can stay where you are, try to do so. But if you must travel, here’s what you should know.
Before you leave – The Ohio Department of Health asks that anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or anyone that shows symptoms, not enter the state. You are asked to self-quarantine and recover before traveling to new regions. If you are healthy and heading back to Ohio, snowbirds are advised to self-quarantine for two weeks upon returning home.
Be sure to plan out your trip and keep the following in mind as you travel back:
Check for closures – Every state, county and city has specific closure rules in place. Check this roadway map from AAA National before jumping in the car. It shows current COVID-19-related travel restrictions in the U.S. and Canada. Be aware of whether you are allowed to travel and if you need to take a different route. Some cities have placed more significant restrictions on nonessential travel, so it’s imperative you check before planning a stop.
General protection – Wearing a face mask is encouraged, particularly as you travel across state lines. When outside of your vehicle, wear protection over your nose and mouth. If you do not have access to a face mask, a scarf or bandana will offer protection. Pack hand sanitizer if it’s available, and wash your hands regularly.
Car health – After making the long drive home, it’s a good idea to make sure your car is still healthy and ready for any local driving. If you need repairs, AAA is currently offering towing services to and from your residence to decrease social interactions. Call 1-800-AAA-HELP and schedule a non-emergency appointment for the AAA Car Care Plus facility closet to you. And if you experience car issues on the journey back home, our roadside assistance team is still available.
Fueling up – Gas pumps are high traffic areas with surfaces that can be contaminated. Wear disposable gloves or clean the pump handle and payment pad with disinfecting wipes before and after use. If that’s not possible, wash your hands immediately after use, before touching your face or other surfaces. And try paying at the pump to avoid unnecessary human interaction.
Packing ahead – The majority of restaurants have closed for the time being. These closures make impromptu food stops difficult. Fill your car with granola bars, fruit, water and other snacks to lessen your need to buy food on the road and expose yourself to others. If you have a portable cooler, consider packing sandwiches. The more you can follow social distancing protocols, the better.
Stopping for food – If you need to stop for food, convenience stores and fueling stations like Love’s and Pilot Flying J are still open. They have restrictions on fresh and self-serve food stations, but offer shelf-stable snacks, should you need them. If you decide to stop in a town, many restaurants still offer takeout. Check online to see what’s open around you.
Hotels – You might need to stay somewhere overnight if you’re traveling a far distance. Hotels are considered essential, but many have closed their doors for the time being. In previous years, you may have driven until you were tired and found lodging someplace nearby. This year, you should plan where you are going to stay. Call ahead and see what’s open. AAA hotel discounts are still available, but individual locations have the right to decide whether they are currently operating. And while open hotels are taking extra precautions to control their environments, it doesn’t hurt to pack your own disinfectants.
Once you’re home, self-quarantine for 14 days – Under the Stay At Home Order, persons entering Ohio with the intent to stay are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Even if you are not showing symptoms, you could be carrying the virus. Protect yourself and those around you by following this protocol.