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Doctors encourage extra precautions when traveling to COVID-19 hotspots

Some of the areas facing the worst COVID-19 surges are also popular vacation destinations right now

ST. LOUIS — Whether it’s for a last-minute getaway before the school year begins, or a long booked vacation—or something that you’ll lose money on for cancelling, trips to popular Missouri destinations like Branson and The Lake of the Ozarks are increasingly popular right now, even amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We're excited to get on with life as usual,” said Dr. Kiki Onifade, who says that is possible—with some precautions, and if you’ve been vaccinated.

“Try to stay in your social bubble even when you travel,” she suggests. That means a trip to a COVID-19 hotspot with other vaccinated loved ones should be about spending time together—and not necessarily venturing to busy, crowded, and unmasked destinations where you’ll be mixing with other non-vaccinated people.

"We did see people with masks on, but not very many. We were definitely in the minority," said Emily Ellmore, who visited Branson with her family this week from St. Louis. She's vaccinated, but her kids aren't old enough yet. She says they wore masks when they went out.

"We debated whether or not to go, you know, just with all the COVID variants and everything kind of coming into play," she said. But their condo was non-refundable, and they decided they'd be COVID-careful.

"I mean, I think just for everybody, just use common sense, you know?"

If you or someone you’re with is not vaccinated, including kids under age 12, it is especially important to take those well-known safety precautions of masking, hand-washing, and social distancing—but Dr. Onifade says as we learn more about the variants, it might not be a bad idea to mask up in busy crowds even if you are vaccinated, or dine outdoors or away from others when possible.

“Maybe renting a cottage or renting a house as opposed to a large hotel where there's lots of people,” she also suggests.

It could also be a good idea to leave some loved ones at home.

“Maybe that’s not the trip for grandma and grandpa to go with to go with the family,” she said.

The Branson Convention and Visitor's Bureau outlines safety recommendations online, and points to the COVID-19 testing clinic held each Friday at their office.