Traveling during Covid-19
April 22, 2020 7:40 AM   Subscribe

My husband has had a chronic cough since last August, and he's been seeking treatment for it the entire time. Just before Covid-19 broke (or the story broke, anyway), his doctor told him he was being referred to the Mayo Cough Clinic in Minnesota. I wasn't expecting this to come to anything during Covid-19, but they just called and want him to come in on May 5th. What do?

We live in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, so driving would be extensive, but I'm afraid that putting him on a plane would be worse. Is it crazy to even think about traveling right now? I don't really want him to miss out on an appointment with them, because the cough is a big problem that has prevented him from working (thankfully he works for a state university, so he still has a job and pay), but I'm very worried about travel. What can we do to try to avoid Covid-19 on the trip?

My original thought had been to drive there over two days and stay in some small town somewhere around the halfway mark. Is that still better than trying to fly? Should we try to reschedule? I'm very conflicted about the whole thing and could use some advice. Thanks in advance.
posted by ashirys to Travel & Transportation around Rochester, MN (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Camp? Drive continuously, alternating driver and sleeping passenger?
posted by postel's law at 8:10 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


Have you talked to anyone at the clinic about this? I would think that medical centers that have a lot of "medical tourism" clients would have someone who serves as a concierge and advises travelers. My spouse and I traveled from Connecticut to California for surgery six years ago and there was someone on staff at the medical clinic who served that function. (I realize that reaching office staff may be dicey because of Covid furloughs, but it still might be worth a shot.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:11 AM on April 22, 2020 [11 favorites]


Looks like it's a sixteen or seventeen hour drive. That would be a very long day, but doable if the passenger could nap, and you don't have to do any middle of the night driving. I'm guessing the place where this could go wrong under "normal" circumstances is avoiding Chicago rush hour... but is rush hour even a thing right now?

I have done a couple of drives of this length during the pandemic (we took our kid to her grandparents when this broke, and then we picked her up yesterday because they can't handle a two-year-old indefinitely). In my experience drive-thrus are still open, so you don't have to worry about food, but if you are worried (either about making good time or about minimizing exposure) you can pack a cooler. It looks like it's all interstate driving, so stopping at truck stops for the facilities is a viable option.

(My experience is back-and-forth between Atlanta and Arkansas; someone with experience further north should weight in.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


It's possible to drive that far in a day (or camp or sleep in the car at a rest stop), but where will you stay when you're there? Do you happen to know anyone with an RV that you could borrow?
posted by pinochiette at 8:51 AM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Drive thrus may be open, but the inside bathrooms are not many places. Depending on the state, rest stops may be closed as well. There are a lot more things normally taken for granted that you need to plan for before contemplating a road trip.
posted by TheAdamist at 9:33 AM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


I would also reach out to the clinic, a concierge should be able to assist with travel planning or tell you alternatives, etc.

Looks like it's a sixteen or seventeen hour drive. That would be a very long day, but doable if the passenger could nap, and you don't have to do any middle of the night driving.

I've never been to Minnesota, but I have done the Chicago to Northern Virginia drive several times, which follows a similar route and is only a bit shorter. 17 hours to me would be the bare minimum even with no traffic, and doesn't include restroom stops, gas, food, etc. Probably doable in one go with two drivers but it would be one brutal trip.
posted by photo guy at 9:59 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


Nthing "ask the clinic for advice", but an extra consideration regarding planes - right now any persistent cough is going to be pretty frightening to anyone nearby.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2020 [4 favorites]


Response by poster:
I've never been to Minnesota, but I have done the Chicago to Northern Virginia drive several times, which follows a similar route and is only a bit shorter.
I've made this drive as well, with two healthy drivers, and it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, my husband is not healthy and gets fatigued very quickly, so he is *not* going to be driving. We need to do the trip in two days, unfortunately.

As for planes, we did reconsider flying, because even though we are (pretty) sure that his cough is not Covid-19, no one else would have any reason to know, and TSA might not even let us on the plane. So that's definitely off the table too.

I think we're going to end up driving and taking our food with us for the most part. It sounds like stuff right around the Mayo Clinic is still open, and we were able to book a hotel right next door to limit travel, so that's something. It's still scary, but I keep reminding myself that treatment for a 10 month chronic cough that's bad enough to keep him out of work is essential and it's okay that we're doing this. Now we just have to limit our exposure and others' exposure to us.

Thank you for the note about rest areas, The Adamist, that was definitely something I had not considered. It looks like they are currently open in the states that we're traveling through, but I will keep an eye out to be sure that is still the case.
posted by ashirys at 10:12 AM on April 22, 2020 [5 favorites]


Thirding the recommendation to contact Mayo Clinic concierge services. Their Rochester, Minnesota, clinic offers free concierge services that are available by phone, live chat, email, or online form. More about Mayo Clinic concierge services, and how to get in touch with them.

Mayo Clinic's website has a COVID FAQ page for patients with upcoming appointments.
What should patients know about travel?

Mayo Clinic recommends travelers follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
posted by virago at 10:13 AM on April 22, 2020


Best answer: drive there over two days and stay in some small town somewhere around the halfway mark

My two cents: try to stay in or near a larger urban area, for all the reasons that people in the Hamptons/Cape May/etc are saying "we appreciate your tourist dollars but please stay away from our small town with limited medical facilities for now". Even if your husband doesn't have COVID-19, he could have something else contagious, as could you for that matter.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:33 AM on April 22, 2020 [4 favorites]


Best answer: On preview:

Business Insider and AARP round up information on COVID road trip safety from AAA, infectious-disease specialists, public health experts, and auto detailers. I'm sure that most if not all of it is stuff that you've already thought of, but it's good to have it all in one place.

I wish you safe travels, and I hope that they are able to get your husband on the road to feeling better.
posted by virago at 10:58 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


I've seen a couple suggestions to try an RV, and came to say this isn't a practical option right now. State and national parks -- and the campgrounds within them -- are mostly closed, as are many private RV parks, having been deemed non-essential. Many folks who live in their RVs full-time are already displaced and scrambling for viable shelter-in-place sites. Especially in the north country this time of year, they are few and far between.
posted by peakcomm at 4:46 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


In California they are going to put food trucks in the rest areas for long haul drivers and truckers. Other states may do something similar.
posted by stoneegg21 at 9:58 PM on April 22, 2020


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