Test Positive for COVID-19 While Traveling? Here’s What To Do

Americans, after two years of living with a pandemic, are ready to take a vacation. The U.S. Travel Association reports that around 85% of Americans plan to travel this summer. Many others aren’t even waiting that long. Nearly 2.3 Million people made it through U.S. Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in April 10, which was slightly more than that of 2019.

No matter how much we might like to, though, it’s not always possible to take a vacation from COVID-19. There is still the possibility of this virus spreading to other countries, such as France, Germany, France and Italy. That means getting sick while traveling is a real possibility—and one that can turn into an expensive and stressful logistical headache.

How do you deal with COVID-19 when traveling internationally?

International travelers must have a positive COVID-19 result within 24 hours of landing or proof they have been freed from COVID-19 for at least 90 days to enter the United States. Non-citizens and citizens of the United States are both exempt from this policy. Children younger than two years old can be excluded. You cannot travel to the United States without one of these documents. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you must stop traveling if you are positive.

Where do you go if you are required to quarantine in another country? What about extended accommodation or rescheduled flights, and who will pay?

Although specifics will vary by country, it is generally true that many travelers end up paying the bill. Exceptions to the test-to-return policy may be granted on an “extremely limited” basis, such as in the event of an emergency medical evacuation or humanitarian crisis, the CDC says—but the average vacationer won’t have many options beyond paying to extend their stay.

“Have a plan in case you have to remain overseas longer than anticipated,” the U.S. Department of State writes on its website. “This includes being ready to cover additional lodging costs, flight ticket change fees, and any other additional expenses they may incur due to the unexpected extension.”

According to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association spokesperson, some travel insurance may cover additional expenses related to COVID-19 cases, however, policies might not pay all associated costs. “Travelers concerned about this potential disruption in their travels should first look for a policy that includes sickness or quarantine as a covered reason, and then determine which benefits quarantine falls under and the limits of those benefits,” they wrote in a statement.

According to a spokesperson from the State Department, travelers who need isolation should contact their hotel and airline representatives in order for them to arrange accommodation and rebook travel. They can then seek out assistance at their closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. According to the spokesperson, U.S. citizens travelling abroad must comply with local quarantine laws. These rules may vary from those set forth by U.S. CDC.

Certain countries maintain “quarantine hotels” where travelers can quarantine upon arrival (if required by that country) or ride out their isolation periods. USA TodaySome resorts offer extended stays at discounted rates for guests who need them. It’s smart to check ahead of time, however, as these hotels aren’t available in all areas and their costs vary widely.

Aliya Waldman (29 years old) was admitted to a hospital in Missouri after contracting COVID-19 on a march trip organized by the Birthright program. This program organizes trips to Israel for Jewish young adult. Waldman, who was negative for COVID-19 after being isolated five days, had to spend a week in the quarantine hotel. Although she believes that Birthright covered the cost of her stay as well as the return flight, the experience made it difficult for her to travel abroad alone during the pandemic. “I won’t be able to afford getting stuck in another country,” she says.

It’s not clear how long international travelers will have to abide by the CDC’s testing requirement. Four trade groups—the U.S. Travel Association, Airlines for America, American Hotel and Lodging Association, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce—recently urged the White House’s coronavirus czar to suspend that policy, since many Americans have some immunity to the virus from vaccination and prior exposure, and are thus at lower risk than they were earlier in the pandemic. “While providing little health benefit, this requirement discourages travel by imposing an additional cost and the fear of being stranded overseas,” they wrote in a joint letter.

What happens if COVID-19 is contracted while on vacation in the U.S.

For most domestic transport, there is no requirement to pass a negative test. However, the CDC has stated that a mandatory mask will remain in place until at least May 3. But that doesn’t mean you should get on a plane, train, or bus if you’re sick. If you’re suffering from COVID-19, or have been tested positive for it and have not completed an isolation phase, then the CDC recommends that you not travel. This guideline is heavily dependent on honor systems, as there’s no requirement for testing.

Nonetheless, travelers who test positive for COVID-19 within the U.S. should self-isolate where they are, if there’s no way to get home via private transportation. However, it can be hard to locate a location. New York City and Philadelphia are among the U.S. cities to end their hotel quarantine program. Airbnb warns that guests who have COVID-19 should not be allowed to book into listings. Competing rental platform Vrbo, however, told Condé Nast Traveler that its private properties can be “an ideal lodging option for guests who need to quarantine or self-isolate.”

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