Americans Traveling Internationally Should Get a COVID-19 Test at Three Different Times, CDC Says

“Testing before and after travel can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

covid testing sign

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance over the weekend for Americans traveling internationally, recommending they get tested for the coronavirus at three different times.

The agency recommended travelers get tested with a viral test one to three days before their international flight, and then again one to three days before returning back to the U.S. Travelers should delay their travel if they have not yet received the results of the test.

The CDC then recommended travelers get tested again three to five days after returning home in addition to self-isolating for a full week — even if they test negative. If people choose not to get tested after returning home, the agency said they should isolate for 14 days.

“Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Social distancing is difficult in busy airports and on crowded flights, and… may increase your risk of getting COVID-19,” the CDC wrote in its advisory. “Testing before and after travel can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

Additionally, the agency said people should check state and local guidelines before traveling, which vary from state-to-state and city-to-city.

The CDC’s new testing guidance resembles part of New York’s travel requirement, which was implemented earlier this month and mandates visitors to the state get tested within three days of their departure, quarantine in New York for three days, and then get tested again on the fourth day. If both tests are negative, the traveler is allowed to leave quarantine.

While some airlines have started offering testing programs for international travel, including United Airlines, American Airlines, and British Airways, and several airports offer on-site testing, many experts have warned against traveling — especially for the holiday season — as COVID-19 has continued to spike around the U.S.

For its part, the CDC has recommended against traveling for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, The Associated Press reported, noting the U.S. saw about 1 million new cases in a week.

“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” the CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz told the wire service.

Beyond testing, the U.S. Travel Association said Americans who do decide to travel should ensure they haven’t been exposed to the coronavirus and wear a mask.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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