Vaccinated people can safely travel, according to new CDC pandemic guidelines released on Friday, but must continue to take COVID-19 safety precautions while traveling, like wearing a mask in public and social distancing.
Release of the long-expected guidelines comes as US COVID-19 vaccinations have increased nationwide, and as the summer travel season approaches. About 100 million people have now received at least one vaccine dose. More than 200 million doses have been shipped nationwide.
“We continue to encourage every American to get vaccinated as soon as it’s their turn, so we can begin to safely take steps back to our everyday lives,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement releasing the travel guidelines on Friday. “Vaccines can help us return to the things we love about life, so we encourage every American to get vaccinated as soon as they have the opportunity.”
The health agency has so far issued sparse guidance on what activities vaccinated people can safely resume. Last month the agency released safety recommendations allowing vaccinated people to meet indoors with one another without masks or with one other unvaccinated household if they are at low risk of serious illnesses.
Here is what the new CDC travel guidelines say:
- Fully vaccinated people can travel internationally without getting a COVID-19 test beforehand unless it is required by the country they are traveling to.
- Fully vaccinated people do not need to self-quarantine after returning to the US unless required by a state or local jurisdiction.
- Fully vaccinated people should have a negative COVID-19 test before they board a flight to the US. They should also get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after returning from international travel.
- Fully vaccinated people should continue to take COVID-19 precautions — like wearing a mask in public, social distancing, and washing their hands — while traveling internationally.
In the last week, healthcare worker data released by the CDC has shown that the widely used two-dose vaccines appear to prevent 90% of COVID-19 infections, a very effective rate, which has added to public health experts’ confidence in the shots. In particular, the finding that the shots prevent asymptomatic cases, thought to play a large role in spreading the virus, has boosted confidence about easing restrictions for vaccinated people.
People are considered fully protected by the vaccines two weeks after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, or two weeks after their single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The travel guidance comes as states across the US are reporting a troubling rise in cases, which Walensky has warned could threaten to prompt a fourth surge. On Monday, the CDC director attributed the increase in cases to states that have rushed to reopen, the spread of more transmissible variants, and increased travel. Other experts have said they are optimistic that the rise in vaccinations, especially among older people and other vulnerable populations, will mean a rise in cases will not lead to as many hospitalizations or deaths.
Masks are still required on planes, buses, and trains under the CDC guidelines, as well as in airports and other travel hubs.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.