The spread of the Omicron variant and a surge in COVID-19 cases have raised Americans’ concern about traveling over the holidays.
Health experts offered the following advice.
WHO CAN TRAVEL SAFELY?
U.S. infectious disease official Anthony Fauci has said Americans can proceed with travel plans provided they are vaccinated and boosted if eligible.
“If you’re fully vaccinated, and you have a booster, it is safe to travel, as long as you’re taking precautions,” said Vivek Cherian, a Chicago-based internal medicine physician.
About 65% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated.
Vaccinated individuals who are immunocompromised or traveling with unvaccinated children should assess their tolerance for risk and their plans upon arrival. That includes checking the vaccination status of people you will gather with, Cherian said.
Indeed, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told NBC earlier this month, “I think it’s more where you’re going to be when you travel and what kind of gatherings are going to happen.”
WHAT ABOUT UNVACCINATED PEOPLE?
Unvaccinated individuals should not travel and should get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Unvaccinated people who must travel should get tested both before and after their trips, according to the federal recommendations. Some states like California have tightened testing requirements for unvaccinated people who want to attend music festivals and other large events.
HOW CAN I MINIMIZE CORONAVIRUS RISK?
Experts said that holiday activities pose more risk in large crowds, indoors and in poorly ventilated spaces where the virus spreads more easily.
People should gather outdoors, wear masks and perform rapid tests before meeting unvaccinated family and friends and before returning to work, said Joshua Barocas, associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
Social distancing both indoors and outdoors is recommended.
ARE THERE OTHER RULES TO BE AWARE OF?
Most states do not have any restrictions on domestic travelers, but many have recommendations or requirements for testing, quarantine or mask wearing.
Hawaii requires travelers to be fully vaccinated or receive a negative test result 72 hours before arrival. Kansas calls for people who have been on cruises to quarantine.
California recommends travelers to the state get tested within three to five days of arrival and has reinstituted an indoors mask requirement.
For Americans who travel abroad, the United States imposed a requirement that they obtain a negative COVID-19 test one day before flying home, regardless of vaccination status.
Those who have recovered recently from COVID-19 can instead present a doctor’s note and a positive test taken no more than 90 days before traveling.
WHAT ABOUT INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL?
The United States has advised Americans against travel to Mauritius, many parts of Europe, South Africa and several other countries. View current recommendations.
The White House last month barred entry to nearly all foreign nationals from eight southern African countries including South Africa. Fauci has said the United States will change that policy when the data supports it.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Caroline Humer and Cynthia Osterman)