New CDC guideline: No more 14-day mandatory quarantine after travel

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CDC Public Health Officer assessing a sick traveler.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Quarantine Station staff, respond to reports of sick travelers at 18 United States international airports, and land ports of entry, where most international travelers arrive. Here, CDC Quarantine, Public Health Officer, Diana Lu, is assessing a sick traveler, who had just arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport from another country. She is trained to ask such questions as: “When did the fever start? Any other symptoms? “ (Photo by CDC/Unsplash)

Travelers may still be unaware that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) silently changed its travel recommendations on August 21. It doesn’t mandate a 14-day quarantine after travel any more, according to the agency’s website.

What the CDC tells travelers, however, is that traveling can pose a risk to you and your family. You can transmit the COVID-19 to others for 14 days, if you get exposed to the coronavirus. There is no mentioning of mandatory 14-days quarantine as it was the case in the past CDC recommendation.

“You can get COVID-19 during your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others. You and your travel companions (including children) may spread COVID-19 to other people including your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus.”, states the CDC memo.

The lack of quarantine doesn’t negate the need for precautionary measure already in place. According to CDC the most important during traveling are:

  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart (about 2 arms’ length) from anyone who is not from your household.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Furthermore, as travelers we have a greater responsibility today for ourselves and those around us. As many countries still have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements we need to be aware of all  these before we travel. This is especially so if traveling internationally or across international borders.

Before you travel checking the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information page can provide safety and security information for every country of the world. The website will help you evaluate the risks of travel you might eventually take. Each country information page contains a travel advisory, alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect your trip.

The CDC also warns that “traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can involve sitting or standing within 6 feet (or tow arms length) of others, which may increase your risk of getting COVID-19.”

In any even, not only traveling but any social activity can increase the risk of contracting the COVID-19. It is simply the harsh reality we live in today.

The CDC lifting the mandatory 14-day quarantine after going to international destinations or being in areas with a high number of coronavirus cases is definitely a step towards loosening restrictions and letting travelers open up to more destinations. It can be even seen as encouraging people to travel more.

However, as the world economy is projected to shrink even further, according to Airlines for America, the U.S. airlines passenger volume for week ending on August 23rd still remains 70% below year-ago levels while international travel remains 87% below year-ago levels. Restrictions and passenger confidence on travel are still very low.

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Ian Powers is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. Ian has over 20 years of aviation travel experience.

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