As the vaccine rollout continues throughout the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has, until now, said that vaccinated travelers could spread the virus to non-vaccinated individuals and should continue to restrict travel. Today, new CDC travel guidelines changed that by creating a path for vaccinated Americans to travel at home and abroad, with some precautions.
“Fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves,” when it comes to domestic and international travel, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday in a press conference. The just-published version of the guidelines on the CDC’s website echo this, saying that “fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19,” and changing the suggestion for who should delay international travel to “CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are fully vaccinated.”
The new guidelines say that fully vaccinated travelers (with an FDA-authorized vaccine, which includes Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the U.S.) no longer need to get tested before the leaving the United States (as previously suggested by the CDC), nor do they need to self-quarantine upon arriving in the States, unless state or local guidelines say otherwise.
Vaccinated travelers are, however, encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after travel—and a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before travel (or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months) will still be required from vaccinated and non-vaccinated travelers alike for entry to the U.S.
The CDC says that vaccinated travelers should continue to follow recommendations for traveling safely—which include wearing a mask in public, avoiding crowds, social distancing, and washing hands frequently—and must continue to follow all airline and destination requirements. ADVERTISEMENT
The travel industry is already applauding this new set of guidelines. “The CDC’s data suggests that vaccinated individuals don’t transmit the coronavirus, which opens the door much wider for resuming travel, albeit while continuing to carefully follow other health best practices,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in an email statement Friday. “Acknowledging that vaccinations eliminate the need for testing and quarantines removes a key barrier to domestic travel. Rescinding the recommendation that international visitors must quarantine also is an important incremental step.” Dow’s statement also highlighted that the “year-long half on travel” has devastated the travel industry and its employees, and that this is an important next step in enabling the sector to get back on its feet.
As a surge of vaccine passports emerge, it remains unclear how the U.S. plans to enforce this latest set of travel requirements—or whether it will at all—and whether travelers will be asked to show proof of vaccination at the airport. When asked at the Friday press conference whether the CDC itself would be enforcing these new restrictions they said, simply, that they won’t, and that these guidelines are simply suggestions for the safest way to travel.