Fully Vaccinated Americans Can Travel With Low Risk, C.D.C. Says

Americans who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can travel safely at home and abroad, as long as they take basic precautions such as wearing masks, according to federal health officials on Friday, a long-awaited change from terrible government warnings many millions of homes for the last year.

Announcing the change at a White House press conference, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stressed that people prefer to avoid travel. However, they cited growing evidence of the true effectiveness of the vaccines – given to more than 100 million Americans – suggesting that vaccinated people could do so “at low risk to themselves.”

The change in the official attitude of the CDC comes at a time of hope and danger in the pandemic. The rate of vaccinations is rapidly accelerating across the country and the number of deaths is declining.

However, the cases are increasing significantly in many states as new variants of the coronavirus spread throughout the country. Just last Monday, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC, warned of a possible fourth wave if states and cities continued to ease public health restrictions, telling reporters he had feelings of “imminent disaster.”

Some public health experts were surprised by Friday’s announcement and expressed concern that the government was sending confusion to the public.

“It’s a mix of ‘please don’t travel’, it also facilitates travel for a subset of people,” said Dr Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. I think it’s very confusing and goes against the message we heard earlier this week, ‘stay put’, ‘wait’, ‘be patient’. And that worries me. The exchange of public health messages must be very clear, very consistent and must be very simple. “

Dr Walensky himself appeared to recognize the seemingly mixed messages during a press conference on Friday. «“Science shows us that vaccination allows you to do more things safely, and it is important for us to provide that guidance even in the face of increasing circumstances.”

The travel industry welcomed the new guidance, hoping it could be the beginning of a series of fortunes for airlines, hotels and tourist destinations, which have suffered increasing losses for more than a year.

“As travel returns, U.S. jobs are returning,” said Roger Dow, chief executive of the American Travel Association, an industry group.

Federal officials have remained protesting that people who have not been fully vaccinated should not travel at all, a position widely supported by public health experts.

UPDATED

April 1, 2021, 11:02 p.m. ET

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can return to the trip, but if you do not, there is still a lot of virus circulating and it is still a risky endeavor and you will have to postpone until you are vaccinated or the condition improves,” Caitlin said. Rivers, epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

If people who have not been vaccinated need to travel, the CDC recommends that they be tested for coronavirus infection one to three days before their trip and again three to five days after they expire. They should be quarantined for seven days after a trip if tested and for 10 days if not tested, the agency said.

Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two weeks after receiving the second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. About 58 million people in the United States, 22% of the adult population, have been fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures from the CDC

Scientists are still unsure if vaccinated people can become infected, even for a while, and spread the virus to others. A recent CDC study found that such cases may be rare, but until this issue is resolved, many public health officials believe it is unwise to tell vaccinated Americans to do whatever they want. They say it is important for all vaccinated people to continue wearing masks, exercising social distance and taking other precautions.

Under the new CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated Americans traveling inland do not need to be tested for coronavirus or quarantined at the destination or after returning home. When traveling abroad, they should only test the Qur’an or quarantine if required by the country in which they are going.

However, according to the guidelines, they must have a negative coronavirus test before boarding a return flight to the United States and must be retested three to five days after their return.

The recommendation is based on the idea that vaccinated people can still be infected with the virus. The CDC also cited a lack of vaccine coverage in other countries and concerns about the possible introduction and spread of new strains of the virus that are more prevalent abroad.

Most states have accelerated their vaccination schedule for all adults, as the rate of vaccinations across the country is increasing. As of Friday, an average of about three million downloads a day had been received, according to data reported by the CDC

The new advice adds to the CDC recommendations issued in early March, saying that fully vaccinated people can gather in small groups in private locations without masks or social distances and can be visited by unvaccinated people from a single household if they have a low risk of developing serious illness if infected with the virus.

Travel has already increased nationally as the weather warms and Americans get tired of pandemic restrictions. Last Sunday was the busiest day at home airports since the pandemic began. According to the Transportation Security Administration, nearly 1.6 million people passed through security checkpoints at US airports.

But the industry’s concerns are not over. The pandemic has also shown businesses large and small that their employees can be just as productive, remotely, as in-person meetings. As a result, airlines and the hotel industry expect it to be years before lucrative corporate travel recovers to pre-paradigm levels, leaving a revenue gap.

And while leisure travel within the United States is likely to recover steadily, airlines expect it will still take until 2023 or 2024 for passenger volume to reach 2019 levels, according to the Airlines for America industry. The industry lost more than $ 35 billion last year and continues to lose tens of millions of dollars every day, the team said.

Many countries, including those in the European Union, still block the entry of most Americans. Some are starting to make exceptions for those who have been vaccinated. From March 26, fully vaccinated Americans who can present vaccination proof can visit Iceland, for example, and avoid restrictions such as testing and quarantine, the government said.

The CDC also issued more detailed technical guidance for cruise lines on Thursday, requiring them to take steps to develop vaccination strategies and schedule regular crew tests and daily Covid-19 case reports before they can perform simulated test routes. , before taking on real passengers. CDC guidelines acknowledge that taking a cruise “would always pose a risk of Covid-19 transmission”.

Some destinations and cruises have already begun to require travelers to be fully vaccinated. The Royal Caribbean cruise line requires passengers and crew members aged 18 and over to be vaccinated to board its ships, as are Virgin Voyages, Crystal Cruises and others.

At present, airlines do not require vaccinations for travel. But the idea has been much debated in the industry.

Niraj Chokshi contributed to the report.

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