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April 2, 2021 — People who are fully vaccinated can now safely travel with low risk for COVID-19 transmission, according to new CDC guidance issued Friday — a move White House officials acknowledge could seem contradictory given recent pleas for caution amid rising cases.
“I want to acknowledge today that providing guidance in the midst of a changing pandemic and its changing science is complex,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a media briefing Friday. “On the one hand, we’re telling you we’re worried about rising cases, to wear a mask, and to avoid travel. Yet on the other hand, we’re saying if you are vaccinated, evolving data suggests that traveling is likely lower-risk.”
The new guidance specifies that travelers should still wear a mask, socially distance, and practice thorough hand hygiene. But it also states that:
Fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or quarantining.
Vaccinated people do not need to get a COVID-19 test before leaving, though some destinations may require it.
Those who are fully vaccinated and returning from international travel should get tested and have a negative result before they board a flight back to the United States.
“For example, fully vaccinated grandparents can fly to visit their healthy grandkids without getting a COVID-19 test and without self-quarantining, provided they follow the other recommended prevention measures,” Walensky said.
An estimated 100 million Americans have had at least one shot, and researchers continue to gather evidence that the vaccines work just as well — if not better — in a real-world setting. About 3 million people are getting vaccinated every day, Walensky said.
The announcement comes just days after Walensky issued an emotional and ominous warning of “impending doom” because of the rising number of cases.
Although the new guidance says vaccinated people can safely travel, the CDC still recommends that you don’t take unneeded trips, given the high numbers of those still awaiting their doses.
“The science shows us that getting fully vaccinated allows you to do more things safely, and it is important for us to provide that guidance even in the context of rising cases,” Walensky said. “At the same time, we want to balance the science with the fact that most Americans are not yet fully vaccinated, which is likely contributing to rising cases.”
Media briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Team, April 2, 2021.