Americans unvaccinated against COVID-19 and eyeing travel plans this Labor Day weekend should reconsider, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during a White House briefing Tuesday.
Overall, the health agency advises delaying travel until becoming fully vaccinated, defined as two weeks post-second dose, or two weeks following the single-shot developed by Johnson & Johnson.
"First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling," Walensky said during the virtual briefing.
"...People who are fully vaccinated and who are wearing masks can travel although given where we are with disease transmission right now, we would say that people need to take these risks into their own consideration as they think about traveling," she said.
The comments were prompted by a journalist also questioning why the administration hadn’t taken a tougher stance on advising against travel, while the agency’s travel warnings caution against visiting countries faring better than the U.S. in terms of COVID-19, Associated Press’ Zeke Miller noted, citing Puerto Rico and Canada, which each logged daily averages of roughly 5,700 and 3,000 cases, respectively, per federal figures and data compiled by the World Health Organization.
The U.S., on the other hand, reported a seven-day moving average of 129,418 cases on Aug. 29, according to CDC data. What's more, the latest federal figures indicate that over 93% of U.S. counties are grappling with high levels of community COVID-19 transmission.
Walensky said the agency receives Travel Health Notices and monitors the notices daily for testing capacity and case rates to update travel-related guidance by country in real-time. The CDC requires mask use during travel on "planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations," the guidance reads. After travel, the CDC advises monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, and should symptoms crop up, isolate and seek testing.
According to the CDC, unvaccinated travelers who must travel should seek testing several days prior, mask up during travel and while indoors at airports and stations, avoid crowds, maintain physical distance and practice hand hygiene. Unvaccinated travelers should undergo testing 3-5 days after traveling, and self-isolate for 7 days upon returning, regardless of the test result. Travelers who opt not to undergo testing should isolate for a longer period of 10 days.