The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends Americans who are traveling within the U.S. to get tested for covid in the days leading up to their trip – no matter their vaccine status.
It is an update from previous domestic travel guidance, that only recommended people who were not up to date with their booster shots get tested.
The recommendation is non-binding, and there are no requirements being put in place. Although unlikely, there is a chance that some airliners, bus or train operators institute requirements based on CDC guidance.
International travelers to the U.S are already required to show proof of a negative covid test taken within 24 hours of travel, per CDC guidelines, and also have been vaccinated.
The move comes as covid cases begin to rise once again in the U.S, approaching the 100,000 per day mark heading into the upcoming summer months.
As the cases have started to rise, Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, has begun to urge officials to take measure that will curb the spread of the virus – including mandates.
‘We urge local leaders to encourage use of prevention strategies like masks in public indoor settings and increasing access to testing and treatment,’ she said during a White House briefing with reporters on Wednesday.
‘Consider getting tested as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than three days) before your trip,’ the CDC writes in its updated guidance.
There are currently now federal regulations regarding masks, tests or vaccines for domestic travel.
Last month, a federal court in Florida struck down the CDC’s mask order for public transit, leaving the agency with little power to set enforceable rules.
Individual localities can set rules, though, with New York City, for example, still having its transit mask orders in place.
The city this week set its covid alert level to ‘high’ after an increase in cases and hospitalizations. As a result, the health department has recommended that masks be worn in all public settings – including grocery stores and office buildings.
Travelers to different states are still required to follow local guidance.
The CDC also recommends those traveling within the country ‘get tested after travel if your trip involved situations with greater risk of exposure such as being in crowded places while not wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator.’
Cases in the U.S. are rising, likely spurring the CDC to make this change. Daily infections have risen to 95,719 per day, a 20 percent jump over the past week.
That is the highest total daily infection figures have reached since February, though the numbers are still dwarfed by the 800,000 case per day average reached at the Omicron variant’s height in mid-January.
It is likely these figures are severely deflated as well, with some experts believing that upwards of 90 percent of active Covid cases are not being detected due to the prevalence of asymptomatic cases and a lack of available testing.
Despite the rising cases, deaths have remained low – partly because of America’s high vaccine coverage and the more mild nature of the Omicron variant when compared to previous forms of the virus.
The nation is averaging 340 deaths per day, a 35 percent drop over the last seven days.
Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the CDC that call for masking and other infection precautions.
For now, officials are cautious about making concrete predictions, saying how much worse the pandemic gets will depend on several factors, including to what degree previous infections will protect against new variants.
New York City officials were among the first to pull the trigger on new recommendations amid this recent rise in cases.
The City’s Department of Health announced the move Tuesday morning, with Health Commissioner Dr Ashwin Vasan announcing that it is the time to ‘double down’ on Covid prevention measures.
The change comes a day after city officials released a notice recommending all New Yorkers over the age of two mask in in-door public places – though they did not announce it would be mandated.