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Fully vaccinated people can travel again, new guidance from CDC says

Transportation Security Administration personnel and travelers observe COVID-19

Transportation Security Administration personnel and travelers observe COVID-19 prevention protocols at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Oct. 20. Credit: AP/John Minchillo

Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can safely enjoy again, according to new U.S. guidance issued Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward.

Still, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged caution and said she would "advocate against general travel overall" given the rising number of infections.

"If you are vaccinated, it is lower risk," she said.

According to the CDC, nearly 100 million people in the United States — or about 30% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose.

Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman for AAA New York, said the CDC guidance only adds to the people already making travel plans.

"Prior to that announcement, we have seen a surge in bookings, but now with that announcement having been made, we’re anticipating that bookings are going to increase even more," Sinclair said. "People overwhelmingly drive, but a significant number do fly, take cruises and take train trips and buses to a lesser degree."

Sinclair said between the CDC’s guidance and people getting vaccinated, more could take to the skies.

"With people having been cooped up and not having been able to fly, that would be the case," he said.

The CDC had said it would update its guidance as more people got vaccinated and evidence mounted about the protection the shots provide. The agency is sticking to its guidance for unvaccinated people to avoid unnecessary travel. If they do travel, the agency says to get tested one to three days before the trip, and three to five days after. People also should stay home and quarantine for seven days after travel, even if their COVID-19 test is negative, the agency says.

The new guidance says:

— Fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States without getting tested for the coronavirus or quarantining. People should still wear a mask, socially distance and avoid crowds, the agency says.

— For international travel, the agency says vaccinated people do not need to get a COVID-19 test before leaving, unless the destination country requires it.

— For travelers coming into the United States, vaccinated people should still get a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight, and be tested three to five days after arrival. They do not need to quarantine. The agency noted the potential introduction of virus variants and differences in vaccine coverage around the world for the cautious guidance on overseas travel.

Already, air travel in the United States has been picking back up. Although traffic remains down by nearly half from a year ago, more than 1 million travelers daily have been going through U.S. airports in recent weeks.

Airlines do not require COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination for travel in the United States.

Angie Carpenter, the supervisor for Islip Town, which owns MacArthur Airport, called the CDC advisory "encouraging," as the airport already has installed health and safety initiatives such as dispensaries for personal protective equipment to help make travelers feel safe.

"I think that people were really nervous about getting on a plane and wondering about how to quarantine, and the fact that so many people have been vaccinated, we’re going to see people responding in a like way and booking more flights," Carpenter said.

Long Islanders, however, may not yet want to travel.

Sabrina Denmark, of Hempstead, said she doesn't have travel plans.

"Some people are not abiding by the rules," said Denmark, a teacher’s assistant in the New York City school system. Denmark said she would consider traveling when enough people are vaccinated.

The United States began its vaccine rollout in mid-December. Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses given a few weeks apart. A one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson was approved in February.

The CDC cited recent research on the real-world effects of the vaccines for its updated guidance. Last month, the agency said fully vaccinated people could visit with each other indoors without wearing masks or social distancing. It also said vaccinated people could visit with unvaccinated people from a single household under similar conditions, as long as the unvaccinated individuals were at low risk for severe illness if infected.

With Keldy Ortiz

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