travel guidance

Here's the Latest CDC Travel Guidance in Wake of US Ending International COVID Test Requirement

International travelers visiting the U.S. have slightly different requirements than citizens returning to the country

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The Biden administration announced Friday it's ending the requirement that international airplane travelers test negative for COVID-19 before entering the U.S.

A senior administration official said that the mandate will expire early Sunday morning.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview the formal announcement, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the testing requirement is no longer necessary. The person said the CDC will reevaluate the issue every 90 days and could reinstate the requirement if a troubling new variant of COVID-19 emerges.

Airline and tourism groups have been pressing the administration for months to eliminate the testing requirement, saying it discourages people from booking international trips.

While the testing requirement is ending, what other COVID-19 precautions for travel remain in place? And are the recommendations the same for everyone?

Here are the latest recommendations from the CDC:

Prior to Leaving

Before traveling to or from the U.S., people should consider getting tested with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible, with the test taking place no more than three days before travel. However, as of Sunday, testing will no longer be required, just encouraged.

International travelers visiting the U.S. have slightly different requirements than citizens, U.S. nationals and immigrants entering the country. All non-U.S. citizens traveling by air are required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, with only a few exemptions in place, according to the CDC.

All air passengers heading to the U.S., including citizens returning to the country, are required to provide contact information to airlines in the event travelers need to be notified about exposure to a communicable disease, including COVID-19.

Those visiting the U.S. must bring their required documents, such as a passport and any visa or other entry/residency documentation, necessary to enter the country, the CDC said on its website.

During Travel

The mask requirement for air travel hasn't been in place since April, when a federal judge struck down the mandate, deeming it unlawful. The Department of Justice is currently appealing the decision.

Despite the mandate's end, the CDC still recommends everyone age 2 years old and above, including airplane passengers and airport employees, wear a well-fitting mask or respirator onboard public transportation and in transportation facilities. Outside of public transportation, travelers 2 years old or older should wear masks in areas with a "high" level of COVID-19 or if they - or someone they live with - has a weakened immune system or is at increased risk for severe disease.

After Arriving in the US

Once arriving in the U.S., the CDC recommends anyone, including U.S. citizens, stay home and self-quarantine for a full five days after travel. All travelers, regardless of vaccination status, should undergo a viral test 3-5 days after arrival and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, the CDC stated. If symptoms do develop, you're encouraged to self-isolate and get tested.

The situation is different for those who have recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days - whether vaccinated or not. In this case, you don't need to get a test 3-5 days after arrival and also don't need to self-quarantine.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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