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A Delta airplane from Billings arrives at the new Salt Lake City International Airport during the first phase opening in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. The airport's parking garage, terminal and the west portion of Concourse A are now open. The flight from Billings was the first to arrive at the airport. The flight from Billings was the first to arrive at the airport.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News file

Utahns see 'end in sight,' but most say they'll wait to be vaccinated before air travel

By Lauren Bennett, | Posted - Apr. 5, 2021 at 8:02 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — With COVID-19 vaccinations ramping up more than a year into the pandemic, people are getting antsy to get out and travel according to a recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll. The data found that more than two out of every three Utahns are planning to travel soon, with most preparing for out-of-state vacations.

"The overall message here is people are sick of the pandemic," pollster Scott Rasmussen told the Deseret News. "They see the end is in sight."

However, experts advise individuals to wait until they can get the shot (or shots) before they plan to get out of town.

Doctors have encouraged individuals to wait until they are fully vaccinated before traveling to minimize risk of the novel coronavirus spreading, as vaccinated individuals are less likely to contract and unknowingly spread the virus to others.

According to recently updated guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who are fully vaccinated are able to travel domestically without the need for self-quarantining and testing, unless travel destinations require it. It is still recommended that travelers take other precautions, such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.

The CDC discouraged Americans from traveling because of high COVID-19 case numbers across the nation.

"Let's not let our guard down too much," Intermountain Healthcare Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said in a recent Q&A.

While the vaccines are helping get the pandemic under control, COVID-19 cases across the country are still prevalent and there's a chance another surge could come, according to data from the CDC.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but experts are advising individuals not to jump the gun and do away with precautions too early. For those who do choose to travel, Stenehjem said they should be vaccinated to minimize risk.

"As people are looking to get on planes, I would highly, highly recommend being vaccinated if you're looking to do any plane travel," Stenehjem said.

Considering travel consists of staying in close quarters with large groups of strangers, Stenehjem said vaccinated individuals can feel safer traveling knowing they are more protected against the virus, whereas those not yet immune are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

"The last thing you want to do is come down with COVID-19 on your vacation," he said. "So, just think of (the vaccine) as travel insurance."

But will people actually get vaccinated before traveling? In a recent Qualtrics study in which more than 1,000 American adults were surveyed, 61% said it was likely they would wait until full vaccination to fly on a plane.

About 66% of respondents said they would even support a vaccine passport, like those implemented in Europe, for the U.S. to prove who is vaccinated or who has tested negative. Another 65% said they'd support requiring travelers to show proof of their vaccine prior to boarding a flight, which is up from December when 54% said they'd support vaccine proof.

Getting COVID-19 tested for travel has been around since the start of the pandemic, but even those who are vaccinated might still find themselves needing to complete tests, as logistics can be difficult when it comes to proving who has gotten the shot and who hasn't, Stenehjem noted.

The data also revealed that air travel was the activity respondents were most likely to wait for vaccination before participating in, with attending large public events coming in second place at 60% of people saying they would wait for full immunity.

Lower percentages of people reported they would wait for full vaccination to stay in hotels, eat out at restaurants, shop, work or go to class and religious services in-person.

To date, a total of 1,498,039 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Utah and all residents ages 16 and up are eligible to sign up for the shot. In the end, experts agree it's safest to hold on a little longer and postpone any trips at least until those traveling are fully vaccinated.

"A fully vaccinated individual flying is going to be much safer than a nonvaccinated individual," Stenehjem said.

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