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Advice on whether to cancel trip to France

I've been reading all the posts on the rapidly evolving situation regarding Omicron and entry into France and just wanted to the community's thoughts. We will be spending Christmas in Pennsylvania as part of the mid-way stop (we are coming from the west coast) to get to France and, to be blunt, I will not be able to control the number of people I'm in contact with as my husband's family has planned a large get-together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (approx. 20 additional people besides us). I believe most--maybe all--are vaccinated and some have their boosters but I'm not 100% sure but those of us in my immediate family all have our boosters.

I had proposed having everyone take a rapid antigen test prior to the get together but that didn't go over well and most people where my husband's family lives don't mask. Not sure about the vaccination rate there either though the positivity rate is currently at 14%. Even if those of us continuing on to France skip Christmas Eve, my husband's family is coming over to my mother-in-law's house, where we will be staying, on Christmas day and I obviously can't stop that. My worry is that we then go to JFK the next day to catch a flight and test positive for COVID. Probably not likely but of course, you never know. That would mean losing money on hotels and possibly airfare and then spending more money for a hotel in NY to quarantine.

I keep going back and forth on all this with various arguments (ie: no risk, no reward vs this is just too much of a risk and not very smart, etc.) I don't know if anyone else is in the same predicament as we are but I'd be happy to hear your thoughts or suggestions for a workaround. Yes, we could postpone our trip but I've been postponing traveling and who knows, if we postpone til summer, some new variant could pop up yet again.

Posted by
1585 posts

I refuse to be in this exact situation. There are no guarantees that you wouldn’t contract the virus even if all attendees were fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated family and friends are not allowed in our home nor do we visit anyone who is unvaccinated unless we are distancing and outside. Only one family member isn’t vaccinated.
I live in California while most of my family live in northeastern PA. Their cases are through the roof with 4 unvaccinated individuals having died in a town of 500 last week. The town across the river just lost 6.
I think everyone traveling right now worry about testing positive just before a flight.
Good luck and I hope whatever you decide that you have a good time and stay well.

Posted by
1856 posts

We were invited to a family Thanksgiving dinner this year and found out at the last minute that two people who would be there were unvaccinated. We told the hosts that we were sorry and that we would not be able to attend as a result. Those are our boundaries. We were not comfortable in that situation after being so careful and doing the right thing for two years. We do not set the rules for others just for ourselves and don’t ask anyone to accommodate us. It turned out that others who had been invited also decided to opt out because of the two unvaccinated guests. In the end, the two unvaccinated guests were disinvited by the hosts. Could you possibly stay at a hotel and see your vaccinated family members there? There has to be a workaround to this situation. It’s not either/or.

Posted by
102 posts

Speaking as someone who has erred on the side of extreme caution for the past 21 months and with several unvaccinated extended family members, in your shoes, I would (if affordable), not stay with the in-laws and have brief visits there while wearing my N95 mask (so no food or beverages inside). I would use the rapid tests for those of you going to France and then carry on with the trip. I realize this may cause tension, which we have experienced with our refusal to see unvaccinated family, but if travel is the priority, then reduce your risks.

Posted by
288 posts

Do one or the other, not both. I would skip PA myself, but I am also pretty hesitant on France right now. The timing / sequencing of your trip, with PA first, seems very risky to me.

If you at least were going to France first, and could run the gauntlet there and come home clean, at least you would be in the US and likely get back home before a positive test would crop up and screw up your trip (and maybe your health, too).

If you go through with this as planned, be prepared to get "stuck" in France for at least 10 days, if not more, if you test positive over there, throwing you into quarantine...

Posted by
8419 posts

I agree with Claire.
I’d go one step further though, I’d skip stopping in Pennsylvania. I’d go straight to France and enjoy the holidays there.

Posted by
2789 posts

Given your timing of going to JFK and on to France the day following the get-togethers, I would be more worried about a possible exposure to COVID in Pennsylvania becoming evident while you are in France, either through symptoms or (depending on the length of your France trip) at the time of your test to return to the US. I wouldn't want to be in either of those situations, and would take any number of steps (ranging from practical precautions to choosing one trip - PA or France - or the other) to avoid them; but everyone's risk assessment is different.

Posted by
2929 posts

I agree with CWSocial. How many days will you be in Pennsylvania? From what I have read, it can take 5 to 7 days for you to test positive after being exposed to COVID. I'd still do both if my nuclear family could deal with what we would have to do if we tested positive in France. If we could not handle that, I'd stay in the United States.

Posted by
35 posts

If they don't care enough about the health risk of that crowd of people to you and your husband, or themselves, then I vote for going straight to France and visiting the family on the way home for as long as you want. It would be awful to get to France and fall ill and have to quarantine.

We had invited 5 fully vaccinated friends (and most boosted) for Thanksgiving dinner. The morning of, I received a call that one couple decided to take at-home Binax tests and the husband tested positive, so weren't going to attend. He was fully vaccinated and careful to wear a mask at work, but somehow managed to pick it up. By Saturday he had lost his sense of taste, slept a lot, and sounded like he had a cold. Fortunately, his wife hasn't caught it from him. Five of us all over 65+ dodged a bullet thanks to their care and concern.

Unfortunately, this pandemic is causing a lot hurt feelings in families and among friends. But we're talking about our health. I don't see any rhyme or reason about who is asymptomatic, who gets really ill (other than unvaccinated people), and who ends up with long-covid problems. It's the luck of the draw. So if I don't draw any cards, I don't have to worry about it.

Good luck with whatever you decide,

Posted by
254 posts

I agree with Claire, also! Staying in anyone's home is risky (even if all are fully vaccinated and boostered) and even without the extra gatherings, unless you know for certain they follow the same protocols with which you are comfortable.
N95 masks will work for the times you do get together with his family- and keep them on! This seems a sensible compromise with the new variant emerging.
I will add my sympathies, too, as what should be joyous reunions are now so fraught. I hope it works out for you!

Posted by
68 posts

We will be in PA for 8 days. Skipping PA to go to France isn't an option because my husband has been looking forward to going back to Christmas for three years now so we would either cancel PA altogether but skipping PA and going to France won't go over well. It's either we go to PA and then on to France or cancel France (and if things get worse) PA too. Anyway, at this late date, I can't change plane and hotel reservations in France. It's a complicated trip and the hotels in one of the places we are going to are almost completely sold out.

Posted by
68 posts

And I forgot to add, we would be in France from the 27th-January 6th so yes, there is a risk of testing positive when we get there if we do pick anything up. As I said, we all have our boosters but who knows whether breakthrough infections of even those who are boosted is possible.

Posted by
3709 posts

For my niece’s wedding in October the in-laws were not vaccinated but we thought it was too important to miss so went anyway and did not get sick. The future father in law was a cliché southern gentleman: garrulous, loud talker/laugher, slapper on the back. When he was talking to me I was fully aware of every time he exhaled and wondered if the next one would make me sick. Pointing out the obvious that you can take a risk and it still can work out.

Posted by
68 posts

Bets, I just read your post that you included in this thread. Wow, that's scary. Am leaning towards not going but am going to read through all the comments and your post again. It would be horrible to be stuck there as two of my kids have to return to college upon return to the states.

Posted by
7705 posts

A difficult situation indeed, and I am sorry your family has put you in it. But I am afraid cwsocial haa nailed it on the head. With the lag in infection, you are much more likely to turn up with Covid after you have arrived in France.

In any event, to come to France, you have to sign an attestation swearing, among other things, that you haven’t been around any Covid-positive individuals for the last 14 days.

Are you going to be able to swear to that, knowing that you have gathered inside with these possibly unvaccinated members of your family (you say you “think” everyone is vaccinated — but are you even comfortable enough to ask to know for sure) ? You would then be entering France on false pretenses (if you don’t know everyone’s vaccination, booster, and Covid status when signing that document to arrive in France). This is very serious.

Posted by
2929 posts

The declaration includes a knowledge caveat relating to a confirmed Covid case. I absolutely believe that the OP could sign a declaration with a clear conscience and without violating any oath (assuming, of course, that they do not know of a confirmed Covid case among the people they have been around in the prior 14 days). Just because one is around a large group of people, vaccinated or not, does not mean that one knows of a confirmed case of Covid.

Posted by
68 posts

Thanks Kim. My husband is planning on asking everyone about their vaccination status but who knows what could happen. With that many people gathering indoors, it's still a risk. I'm leaning towards rescheduling at this point. All these comments have been hugely helpful and hearing about all it takes to get back into the U.S. from Bets on the off chance that I do test positive is a pretty strong deterrent. Haven't made my final decision yet as I'm going to wait to see what my husband reports but I'm not feeling hopeful about France this winter.

Posted by
8512 posts

Let me clarify a few things for you, if everyone traveling to France is fully vaccinated.
1. The person who gets the sniffles and tests positive is the only person who has to isolate. The others can catch a plane and leave the positive person behind.
2. A vaccinated person is not considered contagious before the first symptoms appear. Or, perhaps, the travel companions will never test positive.
4. Research I saw presented on the French TV news said that the contagious period lasts 6 days from the onset of symptoms for a vaccinated person.
4. All the vaccinated people we know thought they were getting a cold. So it's important to get tested immediately, so that the 10-day clock starts running out.

In our case, the breakthrough didn't appear out of thin air. We had some responsibility.
1. I waited until 7 months to schedule our booster shots. That was a month too late for people our age.
2. Our French department (state) government where we live in France had dropped the mask mandate November 1st due to the low level of cases in our Department. My husband went to a workshop with every participant vaccinated, but they removed their masks, including a representative from City government. Five days later, my husband had a scratchy throat.
3. The virus is deceptive in vaccinated people. You think it's a cold or allergies until or unless you lose your sense of taste or smell, which we did for a couple of days.

4. The mask makes all the difference, surgical or N95, not those decorative cloth masks too many Americans think do the job. It's not a fashion show.
5. My case was easier and shorter than a common cold. Before we knew I had been exposed, I received my booster.. My husband's was very short, tiring, but he doesn't need to get a booster for 6 months.

I hope this clears up concerns about being positive but does give food for thought about being unmasked in a large group setting.
From what I've observed, April through October, when outside activities and dining are in full swing, is a good time to visit France for many reasons.

Posted by
68 posts

Well everyone, I truly appreciate all your comments and insights. CDC just announced that France has jumped to a Level 4, the CDC's highest risk category for travel. Not sure what this means for anyone who has been thinking about going to France this month. Maybe I will try again when my kids are on Spring Break if things settle down with Omicron, Delta, etc. Who knows?

Posted by
843 posts

I'm sorry you've had to make this difficult decision. I hope you and your family can make the trip next year.

Posted by
7705 posts

Patrick - I too am sorry you have had to cancel. In a way I am glad for you that this Level 4 announcement happened, as it gave you another external piece of information to grab on to your help with your decision.

I hope things will be more favorable for you all for a visit in the spring.

Posted by
288 posts

Maybe I will try again when my kids are on Spring Break if things settle down with Omicron, Delta, etc. Who knows?

No one knows, of course, but my gut tells me you will get that opportunity for Spring Break and it will be a much better time to travel to France, at least covid-wise. I have my fingers crossed that I will be able to go over there then, too, will start looking at it in January.

Good luck.

Posted by
28 posts

We started dodging relatives to spend holidays in Europe about six years ago and haven't looked back. Thanksgiving last month in Paris was perfect, and Christmas in Nice is coming up in a few weeks!

Posted by
8419 posts

Hasn’t the US been a Level 4 throughout this pandemic?

Posted by
11451 posts

We started dodging relatives to spend holidays in Europe about six years ago and haven't looked back.

This has been my secret for years......."Oh, wow thank you so much for inviting me for the holidays but I have this trip planned to London......"