As travel restrictions change daily, the big question is whether to quarantine before flying. In today’s world, the word quarantine is used in almost all conversations, courtesy of COVID-19. As per CDC guidelines, quarantining is helping to protect the public by preventing exposure to others who have or may have a contagious disease. (CDC, 2020)
Although different countries have adopted different COVID-19 quarantine rules for travelers, guidelines are primarily dependent on the number of cases in that country, local travel restrictions, and the availability of health facilities.
On December 2nd, 2020, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for quarantine and travel in which they recommended 10 days of quarantine if no symptoms are experienced, or after 7 days if a negative COVID-19 test result has been obtained. This news was released before Thanksgiving by the CDC as a recommendation for all domestic and international travelers.
Here are the CDC’s Latest Recommends for Travel and Quarantine:
- Get tested 1–3 days before your flight—make sure to have actual results (not pending results) before traveling.
- If you have a positive result, do not travel.
- Get tested 3–5 days after your flight.
- Stay home for 7 days after traveling, even if you test negative.
- If you test positive for COVID-19 after you travel, isolate yourself, and follow public health recommendations. Do not travel until you are no longer considered a transmission risk—this includes your return trip home.
Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when combined with reducing nonessential activities, symptom screening, and continuing with precautions such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and hand washing, it can make travel safer.
Quarantine – What and How It Is Enforced
Until we are further briefed about some of the issues surrounding a quarantine, it is best to know exactly what a quarantine is and how and why it is enforced.
A quarantine is intended to “separate and restrict the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick,” per the CDC, which differs from isolation. Isolation separates people who are known to be infected with a contagious illness from those who aren’t infected.
In the United States, there is an ever-evolving list of states with quarantine requirements and they have been getting updated frequently during the outbreak, so be sure to check the latest requirements of your travel destination. (Naveda, 2020)
The enforcement of these domestic quarantine orders ranges from reports of Hawaii arresting nearly 200 visitors for quarantine violations during summer 2020 (Hawaii has since moved to a pretravel testing program, save for Kauai, which is back to requiring a 14-day quarantine) to New Jersey’s order, which states that a “self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected” for travelers from states with significant COVID-19 spread. (NV Updates, 2020)
What Should Be Expected from Travelers When Quarantine Is Not Required?
Ideally, the decision to self-quarantine is a personal choice. However, when quarantine is required, travelers should “absolutely” comply.
If voluntary self-quarantine is not followed, further restrictions can be implemented. Infectious disease and medical experts echoed these sentiments of increased vigilance after and during the travel, even if quarantine isn’t required or recommended. (AFAR, 2020)
Testing vs. Vigilance
The CDC’s latest recommendations are a two-test process for travelers to reduce the chance of spread. Testing has become a method by which the government is helping travelers bypass quarantine requirements in certain places.
Those who would consider getting tested for COVID-19 before and/or following their travels to minimize the risk they pose to others, should consider additional information.
The first one is that tests aren’t always widely or readily available, especially as destinations experience an uptick in cases and demand for testing. Diagnostic tests for COVID-19 can also result in false negatives—meaning individuals can test negative even though they are infectious. (Vegas Travel, 2020)
The second is that COVID_19 has an incubation period of 14 days. This means even if you get tested on day 5 or 6 with negative confirmation, you should strictly follow a 14-day quarantine window despite the negative test.
Whether travelers decide to quarantine or get tested or not after they travel, we recommend the relative safety and common sense of travel. Reducing the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus while traveling really boils down to being a responsible traveler, both during and after your trip.
How to do that? Wear a mask. Avoid crowds and large gatherings. Maintain a social distance from others. This pandemic will ease and we will return to travel freedom again. In the meantime, we have learned how to be healthier, safer humans in the presence of others, in all places and spaces.
Horwath, Bryan. Some Visitors Returning from Nevada Will Have to Quarantine out of COVID-19 Concerns. 7 July 2020, vegasinc.lasvegassun.com/business/tourism/2020/jul/07/visitors-returning-nevada-must-quarantine-covid/
“Coronavirus Update From City of Las Vegas.” City of Las Vegas, www.lasvegasnevada.gov/News/Blog/Detail/corona-virus-update
Baran, Michelle. “CDC Reduces Recommended Quarantine Period by Several Days.” AFAR Media, AFAR, 2 Dec. 2020, www.afar.com/magazine/should-you-quarantine-after-traveling-the-cdc-now-says-you-dont-have-to
Staff, Travel Nevada. “COVID-19 Health & Safety Travel Info.” Travel Nevada, Travel Nevada, 9 Dec. 2020, travelnevada.com/covid-19/