Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new public transportation masking rules as of Monday, April 18, 2022.
(WHTM) — As the weather warms up, you may be getting ready for some spring and summer travel. With COVID-19 cases down from a winter peak but increasing again in some places, you may still have to consider COVID-19 in your travel plans.
Dr. John Goldman, infectious disease specialist at UPMC told abc27 in March that the precautions you may want to take to avoid catching COVID-19 can vary depending on where you go for vacation.
“If you’re on a beach vacation, there’s not going to be a lot of people around, and you’re eating at home, I wouldn’t worry about it right now,” Goldman said. “If you’re going to go to a crowded hotel and spend most of the time in restaurants, or packed into a concert, I would look and see what the incidence in the area is. I’d feel much more comfortable if there’s a low incidence of COVID in that area.”
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Joseph Kontra says to also consider personal risk when deciding whether and where to travel: “If you have a normal immune system, meaning you’re relatively young — less than 65 — and you have no chronic medical illnesses, you’re not on any medications that suppress your immune system, then your risk is relatively small, and I think you can go by CDC guidelines unless you are in very crowded indoor settings or you’re on public transportation.”
Here are some guidelines and resources to consult when planning to travel this season.
Tips for picking a destination
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shifted its COVID-19 risk metrics to include data about case numbers and hospitalizations, which it reports as COVID-19 Community Level. This map, updated periodically, indicates the Community Levels in counties around the U.S.
This risk information may help you determine where to go, and it also indicates the safety precautions the CDC recommends based on the risk present in the area.
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The CDC says people in “low” areas should stay up to date on vaccines and get tested if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, but they don’t need to wear masks unless in settings where they are required. In “medium” areas, the CDC says those at high risk for severe illness may want to mask. In “high” areas, the CDC says everyone should wear masks indoors, and additional precautions may be taken by high-risk individuals.
The COVID-19 rules in place for different localities within the U.S. may vary. For example, Philadelphia recently reinstated an indoor mask mandate, while other parts of Pennsylvania do not require masks indoors. This CDC website provides links to state and local health departments’ websites for more information on local regulations.
The CDC also manages a risk assessment tool for international travel, presented in this color-coded map. The U.S. Department of State provides a list of links to COVID-19 information by country that may be helpful in determining the rules in place for different destinations.
COVID rules for getting to/from your destination
The nationwide mask requirement on indoor public transportation was voided by a federal judge on April 18, 2022. The Transportation Security Administration has said it will no longer enforce the travel mask mandate, and many major airlines have followed suit, making masking optional. Individual public transit companies may still require passengers to wear masks, and the CDC continues to recommend masking on public transportation.
Negative COVID-19 tests are recommended but not required for travel within the U.S., according to the CDC. The CDC recommends that individuals not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines test as close to the time of departure as possible as well as 3-5 days after returning from travel.
Proof of a negative COVID-19 test may be required for international travel depending on the destination. The type and timing of the test required may vary by destination. The VeriFLY app can help travelers determine what requirements are needed for international destinations.
All travelers 2 and older returning to the U.S. by air after traveling internationally are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test taken no more than one day before travel into the U.S. They must also provide contact information, which can help with contact tracing. Additional steps may be required for people entering the United States who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. immigrants.
For cruises on ships that are participating in the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, a negative test is required before boarding. The required timing and type of test are dependent upon vaccination status.