CDC updates travel guidance but Erie County officials warn of spring travel risks

The CDC says fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States without getting tested or quarantining afterward.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance on Friday that states fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States without getting tested for COVID-19 or going into quarantine afterward.

Previously, the agency cautioned against unnecessary travel, even for vaccinated people, but on Friday it updated that guidance given more than 158 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States.

On Thursday, New York State lifted the mandatory quarantine requirement for domestic travel. Travelers are still required to fill out a New York State Department of Health health form.

Travel experts in Western New York told 2 On Your Side that people are traveling locally.  A spokesperson for the NFTA said 4,000 people traveled using the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Thursday, the day the quarantine requirement was lifted.

“Comparatively speaking, not what we normally have this time of year, but certainly much better than what we had last year at this time during the pandemic,” NFTA director of public affairs Helen Tederous said. “So definitely we’ve seen a boost in travel, which is very good news for us.”

AAA of Western and Central New York said more people are traveling by car. In March of 2021, online car rentals at AAA reached their highest level since AAA began recording in 2010.

“As soon as that was announced, we saw the phones ringing off the wall, it was like the floodgates opened,” AAA spokesperson Elizabeth Carey said. “A lot of people were like, ‘OK, this was the one thing holding me back from traveling, so where can I go?’ “t

However, Erie County health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said between the rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and the new contagious COVID-19 variants in the community, she’s concerned about spring travel.

“I’m really worried that the second half of April we are going to see even increasing numbers of COVID-19,” Dr. Burstein said. “So a surge upon a surge, just like we experienced after winter break. I am very concerned about the travel over spring break, especially now that these variant strains are in our community, and in states where people may be traveling for spring break.”

University at Buffalo’s chief of infectious diseases, Dr. Thomas Russo, agreed with Dr. Burstein. He said if you are not fully vaccinated, this may not be the best time to travel.

“Well, it’s nice that people can travel without the quarantine restriction, but it’s critical for people to be cognizant that we are seeing a bump of cases in Erie County, and we are not quite done with this pandemic yet, and obviously travel is going to increase your risk of infection, depending on how you travel and who you interact with,” Dr. Russo said.

The Erie County Department of Health said people who do fly or travel for spring break are still encouraged to stay home for a few days when returning, if possible. You’re also reminded to avoid close contact with older adults, people with chronic medical conditions, and unvaccinated people.

While quarantine is no longer mandatory in New York, Erie County also pointed out the current guidance from the CDC for travelers.

  1. If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
  2. Before you travel, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
  3. Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public.
  4. Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you.
  5. Get tested 3-5 days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel

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