What to Know About the C.D.C. Guidelines on Vaccinated Travel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for fully vaccinated Americans on Friday, saying that traveling both domestically and internationally was low risk.

The long-awaited recommendations were issued by federal health officials after a series of studies found that vaccines administered in the United States were robustly effective in preventing infections in real-life conditions.

Still, the C.D.C. is not recommending travel at this time because of the rising number of cases of the coronavirus, both at home and abroad.

One is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots.

If you decide to travel, you might still have some questions. Here are the answers.

Will I still need to wear a mask and socially distance while traveling?

Yes. Under federal law, masks must be worn at airports, onboard domestic U.S. flights and in all transport hubs. The C.D.C. says that as long as coronavirus measures are taken, including mask wearing, fully vaccinated Americans can travel domestically without having to take a test or quarantine, although the agency warns that some states and territories may keep their local travel restrictions and recommendations in place.

For those wishing to travel internationally, a coronavirus test will not be required before departure from the United States unless mandated by the government of their destination. Vaccinated travelers will, however, need to show a negative Covid-19 viral test before returning to the United States, and are advised to take a test three to five days after their return, but will not need to self-quarantine.

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Can I go abroad?

Yes, but only to countries that will have you. Most of Europe is still off-limits to American citizens, although some countries such as Iceland are allowing in vaccinated visitors from the United States and elsewhere. Other places like Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro and have been welcoming Americans with negative test results, while Greece plans to open up to fully vaccinated tourists and other foreigners with a negative test in May.

Many Caribbean nations have reopened to American tourists, but each has its own coronavirus protocols and entry requirements.

Here’s a full list of countries Americans can travel to.

What about domestic travel? Is it free and clear to cross state borders?

Domestic travel has been complicated this past year, with the states and territories instituting their own travel restrictions and recommendations throughout the pandemic (and frequently updating them).

If you are fully vaccinated, the C.D.C. says you can travel freely within the United States and that you do not need to get tested, or self-quarantine, before or after traveling. But some states and local governments may choose to keep travel restrictions in place, including testing, quarantine and stay-at-home orders.

Before you travel across state lines, check the current rules at your destination and whether the state is waiving testing and quarantines for vaccinated people. You can find a list of current restrictions here.

How are they going to check that I’m fully vaccinated?

Right now, the best way to prove that you have been vaccinated is to show your vaccine card.

Digital vaccine and health certificates showing that people have been vaccinated or tested are in various stages of development around the world and are expected, eventually, to be widely used to speed up travel.

The subject of “vaccine passports” is currently one of the most hotly debated topics within the travel industry, with questions over the equity of their use and concerns over health and data privacy.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida issued an executive order that would ban local governments and state businesses from requiring proof of vaccination for services.

Last month, the European Union endorsed its own vaccine certificate, but individual European countries are still expected to set their own rules for travel requirements this summer.

But what about my kids? What’s the guidance on traveling with unvaccinated people?

The C.D.C. advises people against travel unless they have been vaccinated. If you must travel, the agency recommends testing one to three days before a trip and following all coronavirus guidance at your destination.

No vaccine has yet been approved for children under the age of 16, but recent clinical trials have found the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to be extremely effective in young adolescents aged 12-15.

All air passengers aged two and older coming into the United States, including fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than three days before they board their flight.

What is my moral obligation to the places I visit where most people are not vaccinated?

The United States inoculation rollout has been among the fastest in the world, but there is a stark gap between its rapid rollout and the vaccination programs in different countries. Some nations have yet to report a single dose being administered.

Many countries are currently seeing a surge in new cases and are implementing strict coronavirus protocols, including mask mandates in public spaces, capacity limits at restaurants and tourist sites and other lockdown restrictions.

It is important to check coronavirus case rates, measures and medical infrastructure before traveling to your destination and not to let your guard down when you get there. Even though you are fully vaccinated, you may still be able to transmit the disease to local communities who have not yet been inoculated.

You can track coronavirus vaccination rollouts around the world here.

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