As the weather warms up and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it is expected that 87 percent of Americans will travel at some point this summer. Compared to many countries, the vaccination effort in the U.S. has been relatively successful. Seventy to 80 percent of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated in order for the COVID-19 virus to stop spreading and NPR reports that almost 125 million people are fully vaccinated, which is nearly 40 percent of the population. Earlier this month, President Biden announced a rigorous goal of having 70 percent of adult Americans vaccinated by July 4, and with 1.8 million vaccine doses administered daily, meeting the goal seems to be within the realm of possibilities.
The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter by the day, encouraging some of us to schedule events, plan trips, and book flights. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and others while integrating travel back into your life.
Vaccine Delay? You Should Probably Stay
First things first. If you’re not fully vaccinated, the CDC advises that you delay traveling domestically and internationally. Travel increases the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus, and keeping the risk minimal is ideal.
Second, but just as important as the first point—if you are exposed or test positive for COVID-19, do not travel. That’s all, that’s the tweet.
Vaxxed and Ready To Go
People are considered fully vaccinated after at least two weeks of receiving the Johnson & Johnson single dose, or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. If you’ve not received the J&J shot or you’ve only received one dose of Pfizer of Moderna, you are not fully vaccinated.
If you are fully vaccinated, you are free to travel domestically and internationally without any testing, face mask, or self-quarantine restrictions. While the vaccine significantly decreases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19, it is still possible for vaccinated individuals to transmit the virus. So, if you’re traveling by plane or any other public transportation option, a face mask is still required, despite recent CDC guidelines that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks. Also, if you begin experiencing symptoms, you should get tested and follow necessary self-quarantine guidelines.
Safe Travel Guidelines
Even though you may be vaccinated against COVID-19, you are not completely immune from getting the virus. Being vaccinated is an important first step, but to ensure that you’re traveling in the safest way possible, consider incorporating these steps into your travel routine:
- Keep needed supplies like hand sanitizer, extra face masks, disinfectant wipes, and a thermometer within easy reach.
- Digitize things like airport check-in or boarding pass downloads to minimize contact with airport attendants or touchscreen kiosks.
- On road trips, limit the number of stops, pre-pack snacks, and meals when possible, and research hotel or AirBnB guidelines ahead of time.
These tips—together with standard practices like frequent hand washing, sanitizing, and covering sneezes and coughs—will help you have fun and stay COVID-free this summer.
Local Mask Guidelines Could Still Apply
Whether you plan to stay in the U.S. or get a passport stamp or two this summer, the CDC advises everyone to be aware of the local and state requirements at your destination. The mask requirement lift for vaccinated individuals created some confusion about which settings still require mask wearing. If you’re taking a domestic trip, it will probably be helpful to call or check the website of the attractions you plan to visit to confirm specific policies. It might not hurt to keep a mask handy just in case, too.
“Safe” and Vaccinated Reopening in Europe
European countries will open back up for travel in the coming weeks once the European Commission releases its criteria for accepting tourists from “safe” countries. A “safe” country is one whose residents can visit Europe regardless of their vaccination status. Once the criteria is released, travel to European countries will likely be accepted if the tourists are from “safe” countries or are fully vaccinated. Currently, the European Commission only recognizes seven “safe” countries, and the United States is not one of them. So if you’re planning to have tea across the pond, indulge in Parisian cheese and pastries, or go wine tasting in Tuscany, be sure to get fully vaccinated.
The CDC travel guidelines are a good basis for making safe travel plans this summer, but remember that vigilance against the spread of COVID-19 is a personal commitment. Stay educated on virus variants and be respectful of those who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. We’re overcoming an inordinate amount of difficulty from the last year and a half, but we are not completely out of the woods yet.
Travel responsibly, friends.