Summer is upon us, and for many of us, this is the season in which we look forward to vacationing. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the United States and around the world, is it a good idea to make travel plans?
Because cases of COVID-19 are still being reported across the country, it is natural to be concerned about your health and the health of your loved ones. Still, that doesn’t mean that all travel is necessarily unsafe or unadvisable for the foreseeable future.
As you consider any trips you might go on this summer, it’s important to understand the health risks involved and how your travel insurance works during a pandemic.
How Will This Pandemic Affect Summer Travel?
How the coronavirus pandemic affects summer travel depends largely on the particular travelers at hand, where they are coming from, and where they are going. Of course, all prospective travelers must take their own health as well as the risk they might pose to others into consideration.
This consideration may involve research into the spread of coronavirus in both your own community and the community you’re planning to visit. The CDC has also recommended that travelers ensure they can practice social distancing during their trip, and that they evaluate their companions’ vulnerability to COVID contraction before setting off.
At this time, the CDC still urges U.S. residents to avoid all non-essential travel. Nonetheless, at the national level, it currently looks as though domestic travel will be relatively unrestricted for those planning trips this summer.
On the state and local level, though, restrictions can vary. Some states and counties have or may institute restrictions that require travelers to quarantine for two weeks. In addition, many travel destinations may have limited restaurants, stores, and other attractions open to visitors. If you’re planning a trip in the states, make sure to research the guidelines and mandates that apply to the community you’ll be visiting.
As for travel abroad, the U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) Global Health Advisory. The advisory strongly recommends, but does not mandate, that U.S. citizens avoid international travel.
For U.S. residents planning international trips regardless of the State Department advisory, summer travel is likely to be severely hindered by enforced quarantine periods or other safety measures in the destination country. This is because different countries have used different tactics to minimize the harm caused by COVID-19, with varying results.
When a foreign visitor arrives in a certain country, that visitor – who has not been subject to the same pandemic policies as the country’s citizens – will be viewed as carrying a risk of coronavirus infection. This could result in a mandatory two-week quarantine for incoming travelers, depending on the country.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. Sweden, for instance, is one of a handful of countries that seem to be practicing a “herd immunity” coronavirus strategy. The idea of herd immunity is that, if enough people contract and survive COVID, that portion of the population will build up sufficient immunity to slow the disease’s spread.
Countries using this strategy will probably welcome foreign tourists into their borders. If this is the case, travelers may want to weigh the relative convenience of travel with the possibly heightened risk of contracting the illness.
Travelers Are Planning Future Trips: When Is It Safe to Travel?
In terms of the coronavirus, it’s hard to say when it will be safe to travel. Until a vaccine or effective treatment has been created, there will always be a risk of contracting and/or spreading COVID during travel. Due to this risk, the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC continue to recommend that residents avoid all non-essential travel.
Some travel-planners may be willing to gamble on when a vaccine will be available. Others may be tempted to predict a travel period when infection rates will be at a low. Neither of these courses of action are advisable, since both vaccination dates and future spikes in COVID spread remain unknown.
When it comes to planning future trips, many travelers will look to travel insurance to protect their expenditures. In pandemic times especially, the effectiveness of this “safety net” depends on the policy’s fine print.
Does Travel Insurance Cover Pandemics?
In general, travel insurance does not cover pandemics. Most policies exclude coverage related to fear of traveling. Furthermore, most insurance companies consider the COVID pandemic a “foreseeable event” since early 2020. In other words, if you want to cancel your trip because you’re afraid of contracting coronavirus, your travel insurance company won’t reimburse you.
The exception to this would be if your plan included a “cancel for any reason” policy, which would cover fear-related cancellations. However, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, many insurance companies have stopped offering “cancel for any reason” policies. These companies fear that such policies would prove too popular and too costly in COVID times.
Still, there are a number of coronavirus-related reasons to cancel or adjust travel plans that most travel insurance policies cover. For example, if you have to cancel or interrupt a trip because you’ve contracted COVID, your insurance company should reimburse you for any nonrefundable trip costs. The same is typically true if you have to cancel a trip due to an involuntary layoff from your job.
When Is the Right Time to Talk to an Attorney?
Travel insurance providers make their money by selling policies that go unused. With the pandemic affecting millions of Americans’ travel plans, these companies will resist providing coverage to many customers – sometimes rightfully, and sometimes not.
If you feel that your travel insurance company is delaying, denying, or lowballing a claim that you are owed, it is important to talk to an attorney. Insurance companies are well-resourced and practiced when it comes to avoiding claims. Even if you are unsure of what your policy covers, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the fine print and, if necessary, challenge a powerful insurance company to earn compensation.
The experienced attorneys at Ruloff, Swain, Haddad, Morecock, Talbert & Woodward have decades of experience fighting for the people of Virginia Beach. Call us or use our online form to schedule your free consultation today.