As more people are vaccinated for COVID-19, many are looking forward to being able to travel again. While many restrictions have been lifted, COVID-19 has not gone away. So how safe is it to travel?
Dr. Stacey Rizza, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, answers questions about traveling at this point in the pandemic.
Q. What is the most important step to ensuring safe travel?
A. Without a doubt, the most important thing people can do to protect themselves is to get vaccinated for COVID-19. I recommend that all eligible people in the U.S. get vaccinated for COVID-19. That is going to dramatically decrease your risk of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and also dramatically decrease the risk that even if you were infected, you could transmit it to others.
Q. Are fully vaccinated travelers still required to wear a mask on an airplane?
A. Yes. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed mask guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans, the Transportation Security Administration has extended its federal mask mandate through September. That's because we still have a considerable number of people in the U.S. who are not vaccinated yet. And on airplanes, people are in close proximity for a longer period of time.
Beyond getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and wearing a mask in airports, and on planes, buses and trains, Dr. Rizza says it's also still important to practice good hand hygiene and keep your area clean with disinfectant wipes.
Q. What steps should you take when you return from travel?
A. When people return from travel, some may wonder whether they should be tested for COVID-19. The need to test depends on where they're traveling from. If people are traveling within the U.S., and they are vaccinated, there's no need to be tested and there's no need to quarantine. The only thing they should do is to continue to monitor for symptoms.
If at any time during or after travel people start to develop symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, such as, fever, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell, they should be evaluated by a provider and likely be tested for COVID-19.