Tip/Thought of the Day

Updated Guidelines for Traveling During the Pandemic

In August 2020, we shared travel guidelines during the Covid-19 pandemic, as were current at that time. Since then, scientists and doctors have come to better understand the way the virus is transmitted and vaccines have been developed and are being administered. With that, many states are opening their businesses back up and returning to a more “normal” way of life. Guidelines are being relaxed, such as ending mask mandates in some states, all while variants from around the world are spreading quickly. With all the changes that have occurred since 2020, the CDC recently updated their guidelines.

The CDC shares:

  • Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19.
  • People who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine or a vaccine authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization can travel safely within the United States:
    • Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it
    • Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine
  • Fully vaccinated travelers should still follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely including:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
    • Stay 6 feet from others and avoid crowds
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer

For travelers that are unvaccinated:

  • Before you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
  • While you are traveling:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
    • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • After you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 daysafter travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
      • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
      • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
    • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
    • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
    • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.

To read in more detail, including suggestions about international travel, head to the CDC page, here.

You can read about where to register for your vaccine here.

The image below provides quick reference of the current guidelines for domestic travel.

The original post from August is shared below. While some of the guidelines for safe travel have been modified, the previous preventative measures continue to protect you from exposure to Covid-19, vaccinated or not.

Traveling During the Covid-19 Pandemic (August 10, 2020)

Staying home is the best option. But when traveling is absolutely necessary think about these ways to stay safe.

The CDC poses these questions for people to consider if they are planning to travel:

  • Is COVID-19 spreading where you’re going?
    You can get infected while traveling.
  • Is COVID-19 spreading in your community?
    Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can spread COVID-19 to others while traveling.
  • Will you or those you are traveling with be within 6 feet of others during or after your trip?
  • Are you or those you are traveling with more likely to get very ill from COVID-19?
    Individuals who have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should limit their travel.
  • Do you live with someone who is more likely to get very ill from COVID-19?
    If you get infected while traveling you can spread COVID-19 to loved ones when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • Does the state or local government where you live or at your destination require you to stay home for 14 days after traveling?
    Some state and local governments may require people who have recently traveled to stay home for 14 days.Check for state and local restrictions.

Consider the following risks for getting or spreading COVID-19, depending on how you travel:

Air travel

Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Social distancing is difficult, if not impossible on flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. This visual from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Center of Excellence at Purdue University was made during the SARS outbreak, but gives an idea of how germs can travel within an airplane cabin. What can be done? Wear your mask the entire trip, bring hand sanitizer for when you can’t wash your hands. If possible, bring along cleaning wipes to clean your immediate surroundings on the flight. Wear gloves if possible, just make sure to not touch your face and after you dispose of them, wash your hands thoroughly. Gloves and masks only work when used and worn properly. Avoid touching high traffic surfaces. https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZlH60lm3mz0?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Bus or train travel

Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can involve sitting or standing within 6 feet of others who may be infected. Do your best to sit apart from others and wear a mask. Gloves may be a good option here as well, just be mindful to not touch your face while using them. 

Car travel

Making stops along the way for gas or breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and surfaces. But, you can control your surroundings somewhat and choose to make stops at less busy locations.

If you are traveling locally using a ride share service, sit in the back seat and avoid booking “carpool” services where you pick up other passengers along the way. Wear a mask and if possible, crack the window for airflow.

RV travel

You may have to stop less often for food or bathroom breaks, but you’ll likely still need to make stops at public places for breaks, gas, etc. These stops may put you and those with you in the RV in close contact with others- but wear a mask and wash hands regularly to lower the risk of illness.

The bottom line: if you don’t have to travel. Don’t. That’s how the virus crosses state lines. If we are all diligent we’ll all stay healthy and safe.

Dr. Courtney






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