The CDC says Americans shouldn’t travel for the holidays. Knowing they will anyway, the agency suggests 2 COVID-19 tests.



a group of people standing in a room: Health care worker Elizabeth Cameros, right, administers a deep nasal coronavirus test to traveler Wade Hopkins at a COVID-19 testing station at LAX on Monday, November 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images


© Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Health care worker Elizabeth Cameros, right, administers a deep nasal coronavirus test to traveler Wade Hopkins at a COVID-19 testing station at LAX on Monday, November 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

  • The CDC says the safest way to celebrate winter holidays this year is at home.
  • But if you do plan to travel, the CDC recommends getting tested twice, once before and once after, and restricting your outings to only those most essential in the days surrounding your trip.
  • The CDC says travelers should get tested for the virus one to three days before traveling, as well as three to five days afterwards, and make sure both of those tests come back negative.
  • The agency also recommends restricting any “non-essential” outings for at least seven days after traveling.
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With the coronavirus still spreading fast across the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the best way for Americans to celebrate winter holidays this December is to stay where they live.

“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing, and we need to try to bend the curve,” the CDC’s COVID-19 Incident Manager Dr. Henry Walke said Wednesday on a call with reporters.

“The best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home.”

Knowing that many people across the US will not heed that advice, the CDC is also offering up some guidance on how to travel more safely if you decide to venture out before 2021 ends.

Test before travel, afterwards, and lay low for a week



a woman holding luggage: Travelers at Miami International Airport on Sunday, November 22, 2020. David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images


© David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Travelers at Miami International Airport on Sunday, November 22, 2020. David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The new travel guidance is three-pronged: test, lay low, and test again.

First, the CDC recommends travelers get a coronavirus test one to three days before they travel, and then make sure it comes back negative before they hop in the car, board a flight, or catch a train.

Once travelers arrive at their destination, they should also lay low for a week, restricting outings to only their most essential chores like grocery shopping. They should then take one more test “three to five days after travel,” Walke said. If it’s not possible to procure a second test after traveling, the CDC recommends increasing the period of essential-only outings to 10 days. 

Throughout all of this, travelers should monitor themselves for common symptoms of the virus (fever, cough, fatigue, body aches). They also need to wear a mask and be vigilant about handwashing, social distancing, and ventilation when indoors.

People traveling who’ve tested negative for the virus should still assume they could catch or carry it. Tests are not perfect at picking out every infection, and they can only provide insight into a single moment in time, meaning that people who accurately test negative for the virus one day might start their infection the next. 

The safest option is still to postpone travel until next year


a small child sitting on a horse: Elian McCrosky greets his grandparents, Rebecca and Randy Wells, at baggage claim at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, on Monday, November 23, 2020. The Wells are visiting from South Carolina for Thanksgiving. Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images


© Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Elian McCrosky greets his grandparents, Rebecca and Randy Wells, at baggage claim at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, on Monday, November 23, 2020. The Wells are visiting from South Carolina for Thanksgiving. Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images


Around Thanksgiving, more than 15 million passengers flew back and forth across the US. Early surveys suggest even more Americans may choose to travel around Christmas, with people traveling both to visit family and simply to get away from home for a bit.

Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of the travelers’ health branch at the CDC, encouraged families to begin making tough decisions about their end of year travel as soon as possible. 

“We know it’s a hard decision, and that people need to have time to prepare and have discussions with family and friends,” Friedman said. “Take some time now before the Christmas holidays — we have several weeks — to really think about the safest option … which we think is to postpone travel.”

Friedman said traveling is especially dangerous right now because when people move around, they can spark new COVID-19 outbreaks in different areas of the country. Even a small percentage of travelers who may be sick, but without symptoms, could easily seed “hundreds of thousands of additional infections, moving from one community to another,” she said. 

Besides, some of the first coronavirus vaccines are expected to be approved for emergency use in the US in the coming weeks, and as temperatures warm up in the spring, people will be able to gather together more safely outside again.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, said last month at the White House that vaccines should be available to the most high-priority groups, like healthcare workers and people in nursing homes, beginning in late December. 

“Help is on the way,” Fauci said. 

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