Testing positive for COVID-19 while traveling? Here’s what to do

After two years of pandemic life, Americans are collectively ready for a vacation. About 85% of people in the United States plan to travel this summer, according to data of the US Travel Association industry trade group. Many others don’t even wait that long. Nearly 2.3 million people passed through US Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on April 10, barely less than on this date in 2019.

No matter how much we’d like, however, it’s not always possible to take a vacation from COVID-19. The virus is still circulating widely, including in popular tourist destinations like the UK, Germany, France and Italy. This means that getting sick while traveling is a real possibility and one that can turn into a costly and stressful logistical headache.

What happens if you contract COVID-19 while traveling abroad?

To enter the United States, international travelers currently require either a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within a day of their flight or proof that they have recovered from COVID-19 within the last 90 days. (This policy applies to US citizens and non-citizens, but children under 2 are exempt.) Without one of these documents, you cannot board a flight to the United States. If your test is positive, you must self-isolate and delay your trip for 10 daysaccording to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But where do you stay if you have to quarantine yourself abroad? And who pays for extended accommodations and rescheduled flights?

The details vary from country to country, but the short answer is that travelers are often on the hook. Exceptions to the return testing policy may be granted on an “extremely limited” basis, such as in the event of an emergency medical evacuation or humanitarian crisis, according to the CDC, but the average vacationer will not have much options beyond paying to extend their stay.

“Have a plan in case you need to stay abroad longer than planned,” the US State Department said. written on his site. “This includes being prepared to cover additional accommodation costs, airfare change fees and any other additional expenses they may incur due to the unexpected extension.”

Some travel insurance covers additional expenses incurred due to a case of COVID-19, but policies may not cover all costs associated with an extension, according to a spokesperson for the US Travel Insurance Association. “Travelers concerned about this potential disruption to their travels should first research a policy that includes illness or quarantine as a covered reason, then determine the benefits of quarantine and the limits of those benefits,” they wrote in a statement. communicated.

A State Department spokesperson said travelers who must self-isolate should contact their hotels and airlines to arrange accommodations and rebook travel and, if necessary, seek assistance from the Embassy. or the nearest US consulate. The spokesperson added that US citizens traveling abroad are subject to local quarantine rules, which may differ from those of the US CDC.

Some countries maintain “quarantine hotels” where travelers can self-quarantine upon arrival (if required by that country) or exit their self-isolation periods. USA today reports that some resorts are even offering reduced fares to customers who need to extend their stay to self-isolate. It is, however, a good idea to check in advance, as these hotels are not available in all areas and their costs vary considerably.

Aliya Waldman, who is 29 and lives in Missouri, stayed in a quarantine hotel after catching COVID-19 while on a March trip with the Birthright program, which runs tours to Israel for young Jewish adults . Waldman had to stay at the hotel for a full week, even though she tested negative after five days in isolation. She believes the costs of her stay and her new flight home were covered by Birthright, but says the experience made her think twice about traveling overseas independently during the pandemic. “I can’t afford to stay stuck in another country,” she says.

It’s unclear how long international travelers will have to comply with the CDC’s testing requirements. Four trade groups – the US Travel Association, Airlines for America, the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the US Chamber of Commerce – recently urged the White House coronavirus czar to suspend the policy because many Americans have some immunity to the virus from vaccination and before exposure, and are therefore less at risk than they were at the start of the pandemic. “While offering few health benefits, this requirement discourages travel by imposing additional cost and fear of being stranded abroad,” they wrote in a joint letter.

What happens if you contract COVID-19 while traveling in the United States?

There is no negative test requirement for most domestic transportation, only a mask mandate that the The CDC said it will be in place until at least May 3. But that doesn’t mean you should take the plane, train, or bus if you’re sick. the CDC says not to travel if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive and not yet completed a period of isolation. With no testing requirement in place, however, this guideline relies heavily on the honor system.

Nonetheless, travelers who test positive for COVID-19 in the United States should self-isolate where they are, if there is no way to get home by private transportation. However, finding a place to do so can be tricky. Select US cities with hotel quarantine programs, including New York City and philadelphia creamslow them down and Airbnb says guests shouldn’t check in to a listing if they have COVID-19. The competing rental platform Vrbo, however, Told Conde Nast Traveler that its private properties may be “an ideal accommodation option for guests who need to quarantine or self-isolate”.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected]