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Drew: COVID Safety Measures for International Travel

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Last week’s article reviewed the safety travel measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for domestic travel. With at least 50 percent of U.S. adults being fully vaccinated and 62 percent of adults having received at least one dose, the CDC has lowered their travel restrictions within the United States for fully vaccinated people only.

Based on these numbers, Dr. Fauci was quoted last week on CNN saying “I feel fairly certain you’re not going to see the kind of surges we’ve seen in the past. … What I am concerned about is those states in which the level of vaccination is low, that you may continue to see higher levels of cases as we get into the summer.”

Note, Alabama has the second lowest rate of citizens being vaccinated in the nation. Mississippi is last. As Alabamians have frequently said, “Thank God for Mississippi!” I apologize I digressed, momentarily – international travel.

Even though our fully vaccinated numbers in the United States look positive and our president, vice-president, governors, and other elected officials are offering new incentives for those lagging 40 percent, international travel still has some serious COVID-19 concerns based upon your destination.

In November 2020, the CDC updated its Travel Health Notices (THNs) from a three-level notice system to a four-level notice system for COVID-19. THNs alerts travelers and others to health threats around the world and advice on how to protect themselves.

The four-level system categorizes destinations, including international destinations and U.S. territories, into the following levels:
• Level 4: Very high level of COVID-19
– Travelers should avoid all travel to these destinations
• Level 3: High level of COVID-19
– Travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations.
• Level 2: Moderate level of COVID-19
– Travelers at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid all nonessential travel to these destinations.
• Level 1: Low level of COVID-19
– All travelers should wear a mask, stay at least six feet/two meters from people who are not from their travel group, avoid crowds, wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer, and watch their health for signs of illness.

CDC uses COVID-19 data reported by the World Health Organization and other official sources to make determinations about THNs levels. If a destination does not provide data, their THNs level is designated as “unknown”, and travelers are advised to follow THNs Level Four recommendations.

The CDC still recommends for fully vaccinated people with a FDA-authorized vaccine, or a vaccine authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization to:

  • get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel. If you test positive isolate yourself.
    •  self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms: isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms, and
    • follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.

Unvaccinated people should continue to follow all the CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines for both domestic and international travel.
Keeping an Eye on Safety is still important no matter where you travel. You should always take safety steps to protect yourself and others because COVID-19 has not been eradicated.