Traveling this summer? Don’t leave behind COVID safety precautions

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Marcelle Hutchins

Masked and unmasked passengers wait to board a plane at San Francisco International Airport, May 23, 2022. As many people have their minds on summer vacation, UCSF’s Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says he hopes the fall season will bring a new version of the COVID vaccine that covers a mix of variants. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

Alameda is one of 13 California counties seeing high levels of COVID transmission right now, according to the CDC. All of them are in Northern and Central California. While LA is still seeing moderate transmission, the county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, says Angelenos are heading in the wrong direction. It all comes as people get ready to celebrate graduations, go on summer vacations, and potentially spend more time indoors with air conditioning.

“To protect yourself, you carry around a mask … you bring it out when you feel a little bit more vulnerable, particularly if you're older and 65 and unboosted, if you’re immune-compromised, or if you live with one of those groups of folks. Certainly, if you're unvaccinated and unexposed. … People have brought back diagnostic tests as a way to make that family reunion or graduation party just feel a little bit safer. And of course, you want to be up to date on your vaccines,” advises Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, professor of medicine who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco.

He says he hopes that version 2.0 of the vaccine will come out in the fall — as a booster covering a cocktail of variants. 

“I think we may get there in a year or two of having a once-yearly combined flu and COVID booster in the same shot, like Moderna is piloting. … I think there are so many uncertainties still, but we're trying to get there to that destination.” 

Personally, Chin-Hong says he uses a mask when he’s shopping indoors for a long time and/or it’s crowded there. He still dines indoors, wearing a mask at check-in but no mask at his table. While on the treadmill at the gym, he goes maskless because the facility is airy with high ceilings. 

“I'm not living a zero-risk life. I'm trying to just reduce my risk. … Being a vaccine and boosted person, I'm not worried that I'll get to the hospital. But I just don't want an infection just because it's a drag. My co-workers have to cover me. There is a minuscule but real effect in a vaccinated person of potentially having chronic symptoms.” 



  • Dr. Peter Chin-Hong - professor of medicine who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of California San Francisco