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Zephyr and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated September 7, 2021

With the onset of widespread vaccination, travel has not only returned but surged. Yet recently the Delta variant has provided us with new scares. With our safety precautions below, including a mandatory vaccination or COVID test for travelers on all domestic 2021 tours and mandatory vaccination on all tours outside the US, we are safely operating tours this year. Following are our procedures for keeping you safe.

Delta Variant Updates

The Delta variant has swept the United States and much of the world. It has proven to be more infectious and more likely to cause a “breakthrough” infection of someone who is vaccinated. Here is what we know:

  • It is possible to contract and spread the disease if you are vaccinated but your risk is much lower. In fact, recent studies show the risk of a breakthrough infection to a vaccinated person to be about 1 in 5,000 each day – meaning you could on average go about 14 years before expecting to catch COVID. This risk is much lower if you are taking precautions or live in a region that is highly vaccinated.
  • There is no clear evidence showing the Delta variant is more severe, despite some well-publicized studies indicating that. Vaccinated people who do contract COVID are still likely to experience symptoms similar to a cold.
  • It is still much safer to be outdoors than indoors. We will continue to prioritize outdoor activities and meals.
  • We will continue to promote our safety by keeping our groups in a travel bubble.
  • It is smart for even those vaccinated to wear masks indoors.
  • Unvaccinated people are most likely to catch and spread the virus. Therefore, your risk depends on your vaccination status and the vaccination rate of the area to which you are traveling. This makes our tours in Vermont especially appealing. Chile, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Germany, and France – all countries to which we are traveling this year – have surpassed the US vaccination rate.

In the end, the Delta variant does push us back and we suggest vaccinated people practice more precautions than they might have a month or two ago. However, our safety procedures still remain strong and successful.

Mandatory COVID Test or Vaccination

For our 2021 tours, both private and public, we will require one of the following for all participants:

  • Proof of vaccination, including any required second or booster shot. Please note that for our tours outside the United States, require vaccination as you might incur in-country restrictions on gathering if you are not vaccinated.
  • A negative COVID PCR test result within 72 hours of the tour start. If you cannot obtain a test locally, we will provide information on how to do mail-based tests that are quite reasonable at $119.
  • Proof of recent (within 90 days) COVID infection and recovery.

Please note this is for the protection of our travelers, our guides, and those we encounter on our tours. For 2022 public group tours, we will require proof of vaccination for all tours, both domestic and abroad. For private tours in 2022, the above three options still apply.

Travel Bubble

By requiring all our trip participants to be vaccinated or have a negative PCR test result, our goal is to make sure all our tour group members are free COVID-19. This allows us to eat dinner together, travel in the same vans, and even give post-tour goodbye hugs. However, even if you are vaccinated, there is a risk of contracting COVID-19 and this risk is very likely higher due to the new Delta virus variant. Therefore, we still take the risk of COVID-19 seriously and ask you to help us keep our travel bubble safe by not exposing yourself to COVID-19 in the two weeks prior to and during the tour.

These policies have worked exceptionally well in 2021, with no known COVID cases resulting from our tours. We even ran a 142-person wine conference with no COVID community transmission (during the peak of the Delta variant). Our policies are highly effective.

Airline Flights

Most of our tour participants fly to their destination. Airlines and airports are taking steps to keep passengers safe, including new electrostatic sanitation after each flight, mask requirements, and passenger screenings. Studies have suggested the risk of contracting COVID on flights is actually fairly low if you keep your mask on throughout the flight.

Tour Safety Precautions

  • Our small-group tours are safer than larger bus tours or cruises and outdoor, active travel is by its nature safer since infections have been shown to be much less common outdoors.
  • We will provide an introductory briefing on the first day of your tour about precautions we should all take.
  • We will have face masks, hand sanitizer, a first aid kit, and a thermometer available on the tour.
  • We will move as many activities (introductions, morning meetings, etc) outside as possible.
  • We ask all participants to have a face mask available. Since our groups are fully vaccinated or tested, it will be up to individuals whether to wear their masks.

Hotels and Restaurants

Regarding COVID-19, spending time indoors is inherently less safe than spending time outdoors. Thus, we encourage you to continue to wear masks when entering restaurants or hotels, regardless of local laws. In addition, we will eat as many meals as possible outside or in sections of restaurants in which we can be separated from other diners. For 2021, we have also reduced our Single Supplements to encourage solo travelers to book their own rooms.

Ground Transportation

Since our groups will all be either vaccinated or have a negative PCR test result, traveling in the same van should be safe. However, we will ask you to have masks available and it is up to each individual to decide whether to wear masks in our vans.

Higher Risk Travelers

If you are at higher risk or just have a low risk tolerance, you are welcome to implement even stricter measures on tours. You can choose to drive yourself to a domestic tour, including from hotel to hotel. You can choose to eat with your own travel party at dinner or take meals back to your room. You can choose to skip any group activities we have planned.

Summary

We have always been focused on safety, with our guides being trained in first aid and CPR. We are prepared to offer you small-group adventure travel vacations in as safe and responsible a manner as possible. Most importantly, we know you want to travel and we will be there for you when you are ready!

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