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How to avoid becoming a breakthrough COVID case when traveling

Health experts say getting vaccinated is the most important thing to do before traveling. They warn to not let your guard down even if you're fully vaccinated.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — If you're planning to get away for the weekend or for Labor Day, does "get vaccinated" have a check mark next to it on your packing and to-do list?

Health experts say that's the most important thing you need to do before travelling. They warn to not let your guard down against COVID-19, even if you're fully vaccinated.

You may want to pack your vaccination card and be sure to check out refund policies before booking your trip.

This week, the CDC issued new travel warnings for certain countries because of rising COVID-19 case numbers there. You have to be fully vaccinated to go some places, such as Canada.

Before Kate Pinkalla and her husband set out to Las Vegas for a family anniversary, they took all the precautions doctors recommend.

"We wouldn't have even thought about it if we hadn't been vaccinated," Pinkalla told First Coast News over Zoom.

Even though they're both fully vaccinated and wore masks, Pinkalla wanted to get tested when they got back, which doctors recommend.

"I went and tested negative on Thursday," she said. "I got those results Saturday evening sometime and that was right around the time that my husband was starting to feel a little congested."

Her husband tested positive. Then after our Zoom, Pinkalla did too.

"I even understand when people would look at someone like my husband and think, 'well, the vaccine didn't work, it didn't do what it was supposed to do,'" Pinkalla said. "But it is doing what it's supposed to do. It's keeping him out of the hospital. [He's] feeling a little bit better every day to the point where it's gonna be difficult to just not be bored."

Bored is better than hospitalized. 

Unvaccinated people are almost 30 times more likely to be hospitalized, a new CDC study states. More than 90 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

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Breakthrough cases, when a fully vaccinated person gets COVID-19, have been compared to wearing a seatbelt. New CDC research shows vaccines are now about 66 percent effective against the delta variant, but people with breakthrough cases are much less likely to land in the hospital.

"Get vaccinated," said Dr. Vincy Samuel, Baptist Health's director of employee health.

Samuel says not to forget the basics: mask wearing, handwashing, and social distancing.

"When we talk about gatherings, again, there is that potential for increased transmission just related to whether they're indoors, how close they are together, how long they're together for," Samuel said. "So that could increase that transmission risk as well."

There are different CDC recommendations for testing based on where you're going and if you're vaccinated. Guidelines are also different for international travel.

"Once you come back, you do want to get tested three to five days after you come back regardless of your vaccination status," Samuel said.

Some airlines are making changes, such as Delta Air Lines telling employees to get vaccinated or pay $200 a month in health insurance. Most do not block off middle seats anymore and are serving snacks again.

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