Myths and truths about traveling in the midst of the pandemic

Health authorities answer some of the frequently asked questions from travelers during the COVID-19 emergency.

 

As we are all flooded with loads of information about the pandemic and its effect on all areas of our lives, we’ve highlighted some general doubts about traveling in this new environment. It is important to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving, and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are frequently updated.

 

Should I get a COVID-19 test before I travel?

The CDC recommends that all national or international travelers get a viral test for COVID-19 1 to 3 days before traveling. This is now compulsory on international flights to the US (this does not include Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and other US jurisdictions). As we recently noted, some states have their own protocol regarding the requirement for COVID-19 testing for travelers. For added security, we recommend checking with the airline or the CDC website for any restrictions on the destination to which you are traveling.

 

What risk of contagion exists inside the airplanes?

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), “the risk of contracting COVID-19 when wearing a mask on board is very low.” In fact, “there have been millions of flights since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, resulting in only a few confirmed cases of in-flight transmission.”

 

The organization states that this is mainly due to:

  • The position where the passengers sit – since they are facing forward most of the time and not facing the person sitting next to them.
  • Seatbacks – the height of the seatbacks works as a kind of barrier against the virus.
  • High airflow rate – Research has shown that airflow in an airplane (from ceiling to floor) is less conducive to droplet propagation than in similar environments or modes of transportation.
  • Air Exchange – Modern aircraft offer high airflow and replacement rates, combined with hospital-grade High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that are 99.9 +% effective at removing viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The cabin air is exchanged every 2-3 minutes.
  • Mandatory use of masks on board – According to a study by the University of Edinburgh, masks can limit the spread of saliva droplets by more than 90% when you breathe, speak, cough or sneeze.

 

Should I have tested before and after traveling even though I have been vaccinated?

The CDC recommendation is yes, as this helps reduce the risk of further spread of variant strains. Receiving the vaccine protects a person from getting seriously ill, but most vaccines do not prohibit getting the virus altogether. This means people could catch the virus and transmit it to others, despite being vaccinated. Therefore, vaccinated individuals should follow the same recommendations and precautions that the CDC provides for travelers.

 

Please visit the CDC webpage for more information about travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also access the Travel Planner tool, which offers more accurate information about the location in the United States you want to visit.