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Here’s why the CDC hasn’t updated its coronavirus travel guidelines yet

Published Mar 11th, 2021 3:41PM EST
CDC COVID-19 guidelines
Image: Biden Transition via CNP/MEGA

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According to the newest data from Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, the United States is administering an average of 2.2 million vaccine doses every day. Tens of millions of Americans have received their first dose, and President Joe Biden said just days ago that there will be enough vaccine delivered by the middle of May for every adult in the country. This is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been waiting for since last March, but even as the vaccine rollout speeds up, health officials want to ensure that we don’t get ahead of ourselves and cause another wave.

At the beginning of the week, the CDC updated its guidelines for Americans who have been fully vaccinated. If you’ve received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the CDC says you can now gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without masks on. Fully vaccinated people also do not need to get tested for COVID-19 after being exposed unless they develop symptoms.

Referencing the updated guidelines, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during a press briefing on Wednesday why the agency didn’t change the travel guidelines for vaccinated people. Collins said that the risk of infection during air travel was already low before vaccines started to roll out, but Walensky explained that more people need to be vaccinated before its travel recommendations will change:

What we have seen is that we have surges after people start traveling. We saw it after July 4th. We saw it after Labor Day. We saw it after the Christmas holidays. Currently, 90 percent of people are still unprotected and not yet vaccinated. So, we are really looking forward to updating this guidance as we have more protection across the communities and across the population.

“Travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19,” read the most recent guidelines from the agency, which were last updated on February 16. “CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”

If you have to travel, the CDC recommends that you get a viral test 1-3 days before your trip, check travel restrictions at your destination, wear a mask in public settings, avoid crowds, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, bring extra masks, and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

On Thursday morning, President Biden announced that a fourth of all adults in the US have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is unquestionably an incredible sign of progress, but it also implies that 75% of the eligible population is still waiting for the vaccine. Those people are in far greater danger of and spreading COVID-19 than the vaccinated population, and until that number climbs much higher and the infection rate dips even further, it’s hard to imagine the CDC opening the floodgates when it comes to domestic travel.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.