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COVID-19 travel guidance and tips for domestic and international travel

From: Virginia Tech Emergency Management

Travel may increase your chance of spreading or getting COVID-19, thus postponing travel and staying home continues to be the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. Current CDC and VDH guidance includes recommendations for testing before and after travel. Testing does not eliminate all risk, but together with a period of staying at home, wearing face coverings, and physical distancing, it can make travel safer by reducing spread on planes and public transportation, in airports and bus terminals, and at your destination.

If you are planning to travel, some important questions to consider include:

  • Does your home or destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers? Be sure to check country, state, and local specific requirements before you travel.
  • Are you, someone in your household, or someone you will be visiting at increased risk of getting very sick from COVID-19? If your household includes someone who is at increased risk for severe illness, all family members should act as if they are also at increased risk.
  • During the 14 days before your travel, have you (or those you are visiting) had close contact with people you do not live with?
  • Do your plans include traveling by bus, train, or air which might make staying 6 feet apart difficult?
  • Are you traveling with people who do not live with you?

Holiday Travel

To reduce the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays, continue to avoid all unnecessary travel and large gatherings whenever possible. Wherever you find yourself, wear a face covering, practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently, and get a flu shot.

If you do need to travel, current public health guidance recommends that regardless of your destination, take the necessary precautions to minimize your risk of exposure to COVID-19, before, during, and after travel. This includes wearing a face covering, frequent handwashing, and practicing physical distancing. 

Domestic Travel

If you do decide to travel within the United States, be sure to take these steps before and during your trip to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Know your travel risk.
  • Check for potential local and state travel restrictions before you go.
  • Check if your airline requires any health information, testing, or other documents.
  • COVID-19 testing (if available) is recommended 1-3 days before you travel.
  • You should not travel if you or your travel companion are sick, waiting on test results, or have been instructed by a health provider to isolate or quarantine. If for some reason you must travel, public transportation should be avoided. Follow the requirements of the destination jurisdiction.
  • Get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Bring extra face coverings and hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not from your travel group.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.

After returning from travel within the United States, it is recommended that you get tested 3-5 days after your trip, and reduce non-essential activities for 7 days after your return, even if you test negative for COVID-19. If you do not get tested after domestic travel, reduce non-essential activities for 10 days after travel.

Additional ways to protect others from getting COVID-19 include taking the following actions for 14 days following travel:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you, particularly in crowded areas, when indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces (indoors and outdoors).
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 and consult your health provider if you feel sick.

International Travel

Based on CDC and VDH recommendations for international air travel, Virginia Tech recommends a viral COVID-19 test 1-3 days before traveling internationally and requires a test 3-5 days after returning from all international travel.

If your travel includes international air travel, the following steps are recommended to protect yourself and others during your trip:

  • Know your travel risk.
  • Check for potential country-specific travel restrictions before you go.
  • Check if your airline requires any health information, testing, or other documents.
  • COVID-19 testing (if available) is recommended 1-3 days before international flights (departure and return). 
  • Do not travel if you or your travel companions are sick, are currently in isolation, or are waiting on COVID-19 test results.
  • Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel; depending on your destination, you may be asked for them.
  • Get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Bring extra face coverings and hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who is not from your travel group.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol).
  •  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.

After returning from international travel, Virginia Tech requires that you get tested 3-5 days after your trip, reduce non-essential activities, and do not return to campus for 7 days after your return, even if you test negative for COVID-19.

Upon returning from international travel, taking the following actions for 14 days following travel can protect others from getting COVID-19:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you, particularly in crowded areas, when indoors and outdoors.
  •  Wear a face covering to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces outside of your home, including when using public transportation.
  • If there are people in the household who did not travel with you, it is safest for everyone in the household to wear a face covering in shared spaces inside your home for 14 days after travel.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness.
  • Monitor symptoms of COVID-19 and take your temperature if you feel sick.

For more information on current domestic and international travel guidance, visit the CDC and VDH websites, and travel section FAQs.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are traveling within the United States, it is recommended that you get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after returning from travel, and reduce essential activities for 7 days, even if you test negative. If you do not get tested following domestic travel, it is safest to limit essential activities for 10 days following travel.

If you have traveled internationally, Virginia Tech requires that you get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after returning from travel, limit to essential activities and do not return to campus for 7 days, even if you test negative. If you participated in higher-risk activities during your travel (including travel from a country with a Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 Travel Health Notice), you should stay home for 7 days following your return, even if you test negative.

Students who have not already scheduled a test should review options on the Ready site. Most appointments must be scheduled a day in advance. Be sure to check country-specific guidelines for COVID-19 as well.

Students unable to access Schiffert Health Center can contact their local VDH, visit a testing site, or contact their healthcare provider or local urgent care for additional guidance.

Employees should read the VT Daily News for the latest COVID-19 testing clinics and check the New River Health District website for additional testing opportunities. Virginia Tech has been offering voluntary employee testing during November and December for those who do not have symptoms of the virus. Voluntary employee testing will also be offered in early January. 

Virginia Tech has been offering voluntary employee testing for those who do not have symptoms of the virus. Dates for voluntary employee testing are being communicated through the VT Daily News. Employees may also contact their local VDH, visit a testing site, or contact their healthcare provider for testing guidance.

For tips on holiday travel and safe gatherings, check out the following links and keep an eye out in the VT Daily and on the Virginia Tech Ready site for more tips and resources to come:

For student testing questions, please contact Schiffert Health Center at 540-231-6444, opt. 1. Employees may contact the HR Service Center at 540-231-9331 or leave a voicemail for the Virginia Tech COVID-19 helpline at 540-231-7600.