Fully vaccinated can travel again, says new CDC guidance
Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can safely enjoy again, according to new U.S. guidance issued Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward.
Still, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged caution and said she would “advocate against general travel overall" given the rising number of infections.
“If you are vaccinated, it is lower risk,” she said.
According to the CDC, more than 100 million people in the U.S. — or about 30% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose.
The agency has said it would update its guidance on allowed activities for vaccinated people as more people get the shots and evidence mounts about the protection they provide.
For people who haven't been fully vaccinated, the CDC is sticking to its recommendation to avoid unnecessary travel. If they do travel, the agency says to get tested one to three days before the trip, and three to five days after. People should also stay home and quarantine for seven days after travel, even if their COVID-19 test is negative, the agency says.
“Every day you get more data, and you change your guidance," said Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska's College of Public Health.
The new guidance says:
- Fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S., without getting tested for the coronavirus or quarantining. People should still wear a mask, socially distance and avoid crowds, the agency says.
- For international travel, the agency says vaccinated people do not need to get a COVID-19 test before leaving, unless the destination country requires it.
- For travelers coming into the U.S., vaccinated people should still get a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight, and be tested three to five days after arrival. They do not need to quarantine. The agency noted the potential introduction of virus variants and differences in vaccine coverage around the world for the cautious guidance on overseas travel.
The guidance was welcomed by Candius Stearns, owner of Stay Balanced Travel in Troy.
“I have people who are just hankering to travel," Stearns said. "There has been this huge pent-up demand of people wanting to return to travel.”
The CDC changes will help travelers headed to destinations such as Hawaii, Stearns said, where prior to flying COVID-19 testing was required as well as retesting when travelers landed.
“When you landed in Hawaii, you went through a long line for testing. ... You had to quarantine 10 days after being tested again,” Stearns said. “It caused people to not want to travel. It would cause so much stress."
The travel agent said she has always advised her clients that anytime they travel there are risks.
“But at this point, we have been grounded for a year. If people feel comfortable because they have been vaccinated or, worst case, they had COVID, have antibodies, they should feel free to book a trip,” Stearns said.
Several travelers heading out of Detroit Metro Airport on Friday expressed glee about the CDC's guidance. One of them was Khawla Shidyak, 43, of Toledo, who flew out of Metro to Florida with her family for the first time since the pandemic began in Michigan in March 2020.
“Since we got the vaccine, this is the first trip for us,” Shidyak said.
The “fear” of COVID kept the family from traveling earlier. “It’s just like worrying and not feeling comfortable without the vaccine,” she said.
Meeghan Peterson, 65, of DeWitt is also fully vaccinated, so she welcomed the news. But she was not traveling to a place — North Carolina — where a test is required. As a cancer survivor, she said she got her last dose of vaccine in February.
“I don’t feel the need to get tested when I come back,” Peterson said. “I feel great about it. I’m done with this. I want to be over it.”
Peterson said this was the first time she has traveled on an airplane since the pandemic began. “I’m ready to go,” she said.
The CDC cited recent research on the real-world effects of the vaccines for its updated guidance.
Last month, the agency said fully vaccinated people could visit with each other indoors without wearing masks or social distancing. It also said vaccinated people could visit with unvaccinated people from a single household under similar conditions, as long as the unvaccinated individuals were at low risk for severe illness if infected.
According to data through Thursday from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. is averaging 66,000 daily new cases this past week, up from 55,000 two weeks ago. Earlier this week, it was reported that Michigan led all states in new cases per population in the last week.
Already, air travel in the United States has been picking back up. Although traffic remains down by nearly half from a year ago, more than 1 million travelers daily have been going through U.S. airports in recent weeks.
Airlines do not require COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination for travel in the U.S.; a few states have testing or quarantine rules for travelers.
Sheila Horton, 62, of Franklin, meanwhile, was happy to hear about Friday's CDC guidance before taking a flight to Chicago to visit family out of Detroit Metro.
But if there's a way for travelers "to prove that they’ve been fully vaccinated, that would be helpful,” said Horton, who has been fully vaccinated.
Detroit News Staff Writers Jennifer Chambers and Leonard Fleming and the Associated Press contributed.