The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans on Friday, saying they can travel at low risk to themselves.
It's a long-awaited signal from the nation's leading public health agency which has asked Americans to put off nonessential travel for more than a year. Still, it's far from an all-clear to get on a plane tomorrow.
The CDC still encourages travelers to exercise precautions to protect the communities they're traveling to. It isn't yet dropping the requirement to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to the U.S. from abroad – even for vaccinated travelers, a requirement that has been in place for international travel since January. And on the same day it relaxed travel guidance, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky asked Americans not to travel yet, citing rising COVID-19 cases.
“While we believe that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases,” Walensky said in a briefing Friday.
Airlines and homebound travelers alike have been clamoring for a return to normal as vaccinations ramp up. The U.S. is vaccinating more than 2 million Americans daily, with nearly 17% of the country vaccinated as of Friday, according to CDC data.
While it's good news, Friday's announcement makes only incremental changes to the CDC guidance that has kept most travel on pause for nearly a year:
- The CDC deems travel a low risk for fully vaccinated Americans – but only to themselves.
- Fully vaccinated Americans can travel without getting a negative COVID-19 test beforehand, though many countries and even some states like Hawaii require a negative test for entry.
- Regardless of their vaccination status, Americans returning to the U.S. from abroad will still be required to get a negative COVID-19 test no more than three days before their flight home.
- Fully vaccinated Americans don't need to quarantine upon return to the U.S., but the CDC still recommends getting a negative COVID-19 test three to five days after returning.
- Fully vaccinated travelers should still follow safety recommendations like wearing a mask, social distancing, and
The CDC considers someone fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
These changes come at a tumultuous time. Cases of COVID-19 are rising once again across much of the country, and the CDC's Walensky warned Americans, vaccinated or not, just earlier this week to stay home and forego unnecessary travel to slow the spread of COVID-19.
At the same time, vaccinations are gaining steam across the country, with President Joe Biden recently setting a new goal to vaccinate 200 million Americans by the end of April – double his previous goal. And recent studies have shown vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to be remarkably effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the real world.
The CDC's guidance is not law, but a set of recommendations. And Americans have not followed that guidance throughout the pandemic, as evidenced by a major travel surge in the U.S. over spring break. As of Friday, more than 1 million Americans have passed through U.S. airports for 22 consecutive days, according to TSA data.
This is a breaking news story, please check back for updates.