Memorial Day travel and the race to find a vaccine

Posted at 3:33 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 20:50:45-04

Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer travel season but will the coronavirus pandemic raise concerns about traveling?

TMJ4's Charles Benson talked with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar other efforts to reopen and the race to find a vaccine.

"If we take appropriate precautions there's really not a health reason why one can not travel," said HHS Secretary Azar.

It's the first three day vacation weekend since the pandemic shut down most travel.

Memorial Day travel and the race to find a vaccine

Lake Geneva is already seeing tourist return after the state's Safer at Home order was lifted.

Benson: What is your advice for people who want to travel this Memorial Day weekend: Should it be a staycation weekend?
Sec Azar: I would encourage as always to evaluate and know your own circumstances - what's your own level of risk as well as those of your household members.

State health officials have expressed concerns about people traveling from higher risk areas to places with a lower number of COVID-19 cases for fear of more community spread.

It's one reason why Governor Evers opposed regional reopening plans.

But Secretary Azar tells TMJ4 if people take appropriate precautions and follow local and state guidelines, they should be able to travel.

"Going to your lake place in Wisconsin, keeping appropriate distance from non-family members and wearing a face mask if you're are in settings where you're going to be closer that six feet from people, these are appropriate things we can do," said Secretary Azar.

But large gatherings for sporting events, church festivals or concerts are still on hold.

Summerfest has postponed to September, but the Democratic National Convention and State Fair are still up in the air for August.

Benson: Will it be safe to hold big events in August?
Sec Azar: We are going to have to see actual situation is with the disease at that point. I think it's just a couple months ahead of time - it's really quite hard to tell what the parameters and advice will be then - but we'll certainly have goal to to get back, we're going to get back to normal.

Getting back to normal may depend on how quickly a vaccine can be developed and scaled.

President Trump has created Operation Warp Speed to come up with a vaccine for coronavirus by the end of the year.

"We are setting a bold goal," said Azar. "The president has said we have to at least shoot for having 300 million doses of vaccine by the beginning of the year."

But shortening the timeline is also raising questions about safely finding an effective vaccine. It usually takes years just to go through the clinical trial phases.

The HHS Secretary concedes there are no guarantees to finding a vaccine quickly.

"What we are talking about is not compromising the safety and efficacy of the of vaccines or approval processes," said Secretary Azar, what we are talking about is compressing efficiency out of the drug development timeline."

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