Spring Travel Guide
As the weather warms up, there’s not a person alive who doesn’t yearn to ditch COVID-19 precautions and hit the open road. In fact, when I asked people what they’d like to do after the pandemic, the number one response was “go visit family,” and number two was, “go on vacation!” But the optimism brought on by ever-higher rates of vaccination is tempered by the threat of new variants. As a whole, we are still in a pandemic.
The aim of this article is to deliver information that will allow you to have as much fun as possible without putting yourself or others at very high risk of catching COVID-19. There are two important things we should note: (1) The risk will never be zero. Even if we follow all of the precautions, we may get COVID-19. (2) The vaccines are powerful. They provide excellent protection. Vaccinated people are less likely to become symptomatic, get seriously ill, or spread COVID-19. So, the restrictions for those who are vaccinated are different than the restrictions for those who are not.
Before we get to that, there are a few precautions that apply to everyone.
- Everyone who goes out in public, regardless of vaccination status or travel destination, should wear a mask over nose and mouth, stay distanced from others, avoid crowds, and wash or sanitize hands often.
- No one should travel if they or a member of their household or close contacts is sick, if they have been exposed to COVID-19, if they have tested positive for COVID-19, or if they are waiting for COVID-19 test results.
Now, here’s a look at some potential travel ideas along with recommendations from the Vermont Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for each group. Note: you are fully vaccinated when it has been 14 days since your final dose of vaccine.
Day trip, regional trip, or cross-country adventure
Fully vaccinated: According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people traveling within the United States do not need to get tested or self-quarantine before or after travel, unless their destination requires it. After travel, vaccinated people should monitor for symptoms and isolate and get tested for COVID-19 if symptoms develop.
Not-yet fully vaccinated or unvaccinated: It’s best to delay domestic travel until you are fully vaccinated. If you must travel, the CDC recommends that you get tested with a viral test 1 – 3 days before your trip.
According to Vermont Department of Health updates released today, you should also get tested within 3 days of returning, but you don’t need to quarantine while you wait for a result. If you develop symptoms, stay home and away from other people.
The CDC adds that if your test is positive, isolate for 10 days or until you are symptom free without fever-reducing medications for 48 hours, whichever is longer. And all unvaccinated people should avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days.
Fully vaccinated: Pay close attention to the situation and virus spread in the area you plan to visit. Make sure you follow all of the travel, testing and quarantine guidance for your destination. Note that you may be denied entry. You do not need to get tested before traveling internationally, unless your destination requires it. All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States. Get a viral test for COVID-19 3 – 5 days after travel. You do not need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
Not-yet fully vaccinated: CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are able to get fully vaccinated. Those who are not-yet fully vaccinated must do everything that the vaccinated people must do, plus:
- Quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
- Get a viral test 3 – 5 days after travel, and remain quarantined for the full 7 days regardless of the result.
- Those who test positive must isolate.
- Those who don’t get tested must quarantine for 10 days.
- Avoid being around people at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days.
The bottom line is that it is a lot easier, less risky, and more fun to travel (and do everything else, like host a cookout or go shopping), once you’re vaccinated. Visit https://www.healthvermont.gov/ to register for your vaccination today.
Marie George, MD, FIDSA, is an infectious disease specialist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, VT.