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Opinion | Thinking of traveling this inauguration week? Postpone your trip.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many months has urged Americans to avoid nonessential travel to limit exposure to COVID-19.

Since the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, the FBI has warned that more potentially armed election protests are in the planning stages in all 50 states leading up to President Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.  Here are good reasons to reconsider:

Mental health experts have been worried over the last several months how people will react if they are unhappy with the election. Given the economic and public health consequences of the surging pandemic, the peaceful transition of power is already clouded by many factors. The inauguration could become a flashpoint anywhere.

Already some local government officials, anticipating a national mask mandate from President Biden after his inauguration, have announced they will defy this law.  Open defiance of mask requirements necessary to limit the spread of COVID on planes, is happening on flights across the country. In one recent case an American pilot on a flight from Washington to Phoenix threatened to land in Kansas if chanting, unmasked passengers refused to obey flight attendants. 

Some defiant passengers have been banned by airlines such as Delta, and Alaska, and the new regulation will probably add monetary and/or criminal penalties.  Rowdy incidents on flights triggered by obnoxious passengers who refuse to comply have also prompted the FAA administrator to threaten a crackdown.

Lodging is also looking more complicated right now. If you’re thinking about heading to Washington and staying in an Airbnb, think again.  That company is blocking all reservations in the Capitol area this week.

There are several other reasons to avoid travel. Some areas, such as southern California, are short of hospital beds, which means you may not be able to get emergency care should something go wrong on your trip.  If you happen to be infected by COVID-19 during your travels, it’s possible that your travel insurance won’t cover evacuation. And if you’re thinking about foreign travel, there is a possibility that you will be required to quarantine for up to two weeks on arrival.

Here’s something else you should know: If you are already booked for a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s possible that you may receive a call to show up due to an unexpected opening. Do you really want to give up that last-minute vaccination opportunity because you’re snorkeling far away?

You also need to consider that in a highly polarized environment it’s possible that airports, train and public transit systems may be subject to emergency shutdowns due to an abundance of caution. This could mean you would potentially be forced to bivouac in a terminal with people refusing to wear masks.

If you must travel, consider going by car.  Given all the uncertainty allow plenty of extra time for your trip and have a contingency plan.  Keep an eye on local media at your destination to stay clear of protests, be sure to fully charge your mobile devices and leave a detailed itinerary with a family member or close friend.

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