CDC Now Says You Need To Get Tested For Domestic Travel

The CDC says you need to get tested for domestic travel, something they didn’t argue was necessary during the Delta surge or the Omicron surge at the beginning of the year. They’re also saying it’s important to be tested for domestic travel but not for indoor dining or concerts.

What, exactly, are they trying to accomplish with this non-binding guidance?

  • If this were the guidance at the start of the pandemic it might have made sense, trying to limit spread of the virus between different parts of the country. But they didn’t offer that guidance and tests weren’t available – the CDC test, the only one permitted to be used, didn’t work.

  • Testing prior to international flights to the U.S. didn’t stop variants from entering the country.

  • Apparently Covid only spreads when your departing on your trip, not when you’re traveling home, because they only suggest traveling prior to your return “if your trip involved situations with greater risk of exposure.”

The U.S. government requires testing prior to flying (but not crossing land borders) back to the U.S. and those tests have to be taken within a day of travel. The CDC, though, recommends testing prior to domestic travel no more than 3 days before your trip.

CDC guidance for domestic travel doesn’t have the force of law. It’s meant to be useful advice to people.

Covid remains a significant threat. Testing is an important tool to identify infections early, because the best treatments like Paxlovid require administration within days of becoming symptomatic. Testing can be a helpful tool prior to spending time indoors with immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable people. But from a policy standpoint ICU capacity is far more important than reported cases.

Nonetheless this advice – to start testing for domestic travel now at this point in the pandemic – isn’t useful to people. Of course, the CDC continues to fail us in even more important ways too.

Meanwhile the FDA no longer considers the pandemic enough of an emergency that 4 year olds can get vaccines while 5 year olds can now get boosters, that it’s taking them 5 months to consider the emergency approval application for Novavax’s vaccine, and that even discussion of updating booster shots from inoculating only against the original Wuhan strain is still more than a month away.

Please don’t say ‘Covid is no worse than the cold’ because (1) even if that were true it’s additive, on top of the circulating cold, which is bad and (2) it is in fact worse – it spreads faster and we’ll get it more often, and there’s some amount of long Covid that is real. Plus the virus keeps mutating. We need new and better vaccines, we have to hope the virus doesn’t become resistant to Paxlovid so we need more treatments (and probably a longer course for Paxlovid to avoid relapse). I take Covid seriously, but at this point it’s hard to take the CDC seriously.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. The CDC like much of the government has been compromised.

    The elections in November have never been more important.

  2. @Koggerj

    Wow, I thought every other election had never been more important, I bet you everyone says that in 2024 too.

  3. “I take Covid seriously, but at this point it’s hard to take the CDC seriously.” — Very well said, Gary. It’s appalling that the CDC continues to fail us miserably. At this rate, it is going into oblivion real fast as people tune out its nonsensical messages.

  4. no one cares what the CDC has to say on COVID anymore. Any trust they used to have is long gone. Im in Europe right now and pretty much everyone is good with back to normal with everything without govt interference and if Europe is that means America’s CDC is out of step with the rest of the world.

  5. My response to the CDC is simple: get stuffed. I’m back to living my life without fear or conceits that I – or the government – can control biology. If you are afraid, stay home and let everybody else get on with life.

  6. Now THIS is incredible. They’ll not give up trying to control us, never. The only reason for any required testing is that a huge number of tests representing millions of dollars to the manufacturer are waiting to be sold … and they want their money. Why? Because they’ve already spent half their profits bribing the officials to make asinine announcements like this. You can bet that all kinds of people will believe baloney like this and go buy a test, or maybe several, just in case. It’s genius.

  7. This makes no sense whatsoever. Like none, especially with all the loopholes. And especially now.

  8. Gary wrote: “I take Covid seriously, but at this point it’s hard to take the CDC seriously.” Gary, we finally agree on something as it relates to COVID. But your view on the “vaccine” is completely wrong.

  9. This is all total BS. The virus is out there and it isn’t going anywhere. It will continue to mutate. It will continue to spread. People will continue to get infected. Not once. Not twice. But many times over. The only good thing is that those that are vaccinated will most likely not get sick enough to end up in a hosptial. And most people that are vaccinated will recover quicker and move on with their lives. What the CDC should be saying is that people need to self test whenever they feel sick. Symptoms mimick those of a cold or flu. Knowing that you have the COVID will allow you to make choices that prevent you from spreading the virus to others that might not be as lucky as you. The CDC also needs to recommend that people continue to wear a face mask indoors and whenever social distancing is not possible. Why am I saying this? Because I just got off a 16 day cruise from New York to Italy. Three days in New York prior to cruise and three days in Rome before testing negative and being allowed on the flight home. And yes, government officials were at the airport checking our documentation. Cruiselines are experiencing an increase in COVID infections among guest and their crew. Why? Because they dropped the face mask mandate. The face mask was limiting the spread before they dropped it. Now it’s Russian Roulette. Our cruise ended on May 11th. There are still people stuck in Rome in quaranteen because they are still testing positive. Do yourself a favor. Wear a face mask. You will enjoy that trip or vacation much more if you do not test positive for COVID while away from home.

  10. How they handled Covid has done irreparable damage to CDC. At this stage it just feels like they are desperate for attention of any sort with nonsense like this. They need to be disbanded and start again with a fit for purpose agency

  11. I agree with your take on this, Gary. It’s like the CDC not only doesn’t know how to communicate effectively, it doesn’t seem to have any idea what to do about it. I think they have qualified scientists who are good in the lab, but haven’t a clue as to how to deal with a public that has all sorts of people in it. Enough with the “experts worry” ruminations about how people will react to a series of “what ifs” and get to work doing what needs to be done if they want to be taken seriously.

  12. They need to figure out what’s going on with monkeypox before they blunder that too.

  13. Twice as many people died under Biden and we had two massive surges of covid under his failed leadership.

    It was because he cares more about the political optics than the actual science.

    But that is the case with economy as well.

    I question the mental and cognitive health of the people that still support the democrat party.

  14. Well, any hope I had of them dropping the ridiculous 1 day test requirement to return from overseas just bit the dust.

    Heck, even Indonesia and Singapore have dropped all test requirements for fully vaxxed travelers.

  15. Just an FYI Gary, Paxlovid availability Is still being restricted. Patients require a certain number of points to be prescribed the medication. If you don’t qualify, then you are told to hydrate, rest, and monitor. Ask me how I know this…

  16. Flying back to the States from Europe on Saturday. Yet another useless Covid test at LHR. With this kind of idiotic pronouncement, it seems like we’ll never get rid of that requirement.

  17. This is ridiculous, but like most government agencies they are conservative, and being medically oriented do want to keep people safe. But still, this is tone deaf to the public mood and so they are just digging themselves into a deeper hole.

    I’ve been on a cruise and my wife got excited about one destination being put in a higher risk category. I checked and almost every destination we have was already in that zone, not that it means much. (For Level 3, which is more than 1 new case per 1000 people in the 4 weeks: Have vaccines “up to date”, don’t go if your immune system is weakened, talk to your M.D. Good advice, but we’re dealing with maybe a 0.1% change, which should be nothing to panic about.)

    After a while such warnings for domestic and international travel become like the boy who cried wolf. Nobody will listen, and if a real crisis occurs their credibility will be shot.

  18. @BobinNH – get a better doctor, and complain to Congress that it’ll spend trillions but not a dime more on vaccines or treatments

  19. So many people in the dark. You have no idea what is coming soon. CDC, FDA, local governments, your doctors….none of that will matter by November.

    “On Sunday, April 10th, 2022, it was made public that the Biden Administration had proposed amendments to the WHO treaty. These amendments are designed to further strip us of our rights and sovereignty. The WHO then provided only three days for public comment! The World Health Assembly is slated to vote on these amendments between May 22-28th.

    What do We the People stand to lose if we remain complacent? A LOT! These amendments give the WHO’s Director-General the power to declare health emergencies at will and implement quarantine measures on a global scale. The impact of this could result in the United States Constitution being usurped by the WHO.” The proposed amendments stand to change everything, and we lose a lot if we remain complacent. Essentially, the proposed amendments give power to the Director-General of WHO (Tedros) which would give him the right to declare health emergencies at will and act on his own. The WHO would have the power to decide what constitutes a “pandemic” and to decide quarantine measures on a global scale. WHO would control the development and safety of new treatments and would decide vaccine mandates for each country! The WHO has already stealthily changed the definition of a pandemic from a disease that causes a lot of death worldwide to a disease that occurs in many countries worldwide. Just so we are clear, the proposed amendments empower the corrupt Director-General to unilaterally declare a health emergency in any nation even against the opinion of that nation for any illness that is widespread. And keep in mind that the WHO preamble defines its area of concern so broadly it easily encompasses war, child development, education, racial justice, etc.”

    We The People must take action to stop this blatant attack on the Constitution of the United States from within.

  20. “Need” vs. “recommends” are completely different things. This is getting everyone upset for no reason.

  21. I also want to add that the headline is very irritating because the headline in the link says “recommends” and even the CDC website states, “recommended”. It’s just weird to bait people like this and then mention later that this is CDC guidance.

  22. CDC guidance does not equal law. Useless organization along with NIH and FDA.

  23. I rest my case regarding the incompetence and conflicts of interest regarding the CDC that I made last week one of your post. More proof of their incompetence is in this recommendation.

  24. I’d like the CDC to stop worrying about how things are perceived. Just issue factual advice if needed and update the vaccines if needed. They seem to think everyone is a frail child who can’t deal with reality.

  25. If you’re vaxxed, it really is like the common cold. My friend’s wife has stage 3 metastatic cancer and got covid last week but was vaxxed. No worse than the cold. Head congestion and was over it in a few days.

    If you’re not vaxxed, I wish you luck. It’s your pandemic now.

  26. “What, exactly, are they trying to accomplish with this non-binding guidance?” Destroy whatever shred of creditably they might still have? Is there anyone left that still believes this is all about science?

  27. I was hoping CDC will come to its senses and stop looking foolish. But noooo….

  28. Seriously, this click bait writing has gotten insane. CDC is just recommending it, not requiring it. Saying the CDC says you “need” to get tested is very different. Doctors recommend a lot of things that most Americans ignore, then complain about because they are unhealthy. Nothing new there. Drinking in moderation, exercising regularly, eating healthy – all foreign concepts to many Americans, who suddenly are health experts when it comes to covid-19 because they listened to rogan last night. There is a reason for profit healthcare is booming in the US.

  29. @mon- and don’t people think that every other travel blogger would have posted about this story if it were an actual requirement? Like don’t people read the original sources to confirm things?

  30. I’m concerned our 4 year old child’s Pre-K class will use this CDC guidance to force the test to be followed whenever we disclose out of state travel since they follow all their guidelines to the fullest letter so far.

    Because of the pre-existing CDC guideline for out of state travel for the unvaccinated, the school still also forces a 5 day quarantine when we go out of state (from NJ) if we disclose it where even going to Staten Island, NY (20 min from our town) also triggers it, as if crossing a nearby state boundary is so much more dangerous than going anywhere included crowded restaurants/malls within our state.

  31. I am sure a lot of people are clicking on this article because it says you “need” to get tested prior to domestic flights. The is a big difference between “need” and “recommend”. The motives of the CDC are political. They see people living normal lives and their control slipping away so they have to try and stay relevant. It is time to drop the international return testing which is just dumb at this point.

  32. Someone purportedly in Europe at the moment says everything is back to normal. I’m in Germany and I can categorically say that commentator is incorrect. Masks must be worn on transit, trains and plane and many stores and office buildings require them too. I’m not sure what agenda that person has but I’d take any claim of anywhere being normal with 10 grains of salt.

  33. Good grief, we KNOW its “recommend” vs requirement (as of now).

    The point is we NEED the 1 say requirement to be gone. It’s time has passed and it’s done pretty much nothing but make travel more of a hassle. Even the 3 day requirement was better than this.

    The rest of the world is moving on. We aren’t.

  34. Testing prior to international flights to the U.S. didn’t stop variants from entering the country.

    You keep repeating that statement, totally oblivious to the fact that variants can just as easily develop in the US and do not have enter from another country.

    The statement also fails to understand why more attention is place on airline travel than other on other venues or activities: in spite of the efficient air filtration in airline cabins, the fact that one must sit for extended periods of time in a cramped space with many people dramatically increases the chances of infection, as countless studies — including one linked to on this very site — have shown…

  35. Calm your alarmist shit down. It’s a suggestion, and it’s free to accomplish. Why are you against knowing if you’re Covid positive?

  36. Clickbait as usually. The CDC did NOT say this. Read their statement. They only recommend it not that you need to. That is a huge difference and many other sources and doctors also recommend it.

  37. Does this recommendation mean that the testing requirement to reenter the US is likely to stay through the summer (going against Gary’s expectations that it will likely end before summer travel), or does it mean that the testing requirement for international travel is likely going away and that it will just be moved into the CDC recommendation?

  38. The USA was inundated with free tests. The purpose of those tests are for one to test themselves if they think they have symptoms. If positive, one is to self-isolate and contact your primary physician. Like others have mentioned, Covid is not going away!

    @Robert Nice for being a right wing parrot. The World Health Organization has all those powers you mentioned already. Nice try, but total fake news!

  39. @FR – you maybe correct about the language or the verb they used. But a bigger question is – why even make this statement? What causes CDC, when we’re hot having neither hospitalizations nor deaths at any elevated level, to come out with this proclamation???

  40. This is the stupidest suggestion coming out of the CDC ever. How many people are needed to check all passengers travel who are traveling on buses and trains. Why is a test needed for transportation, but no proof of vaccination needed to stay in a hotel, restaurant or theater?

    Who is going to pay for these test? Is it going to be only a PCR test.

  41. Why the USA never required proof of vaccine to board a plane domestically is beyond me. Every other country I’ve been to (in Europe and Africa both first and third world) has required it.

  42. While I think the CDC is not trustworthy at this point, there is a big difference between the headline/article that states:
    “CDC Now Says You Need To Get Tested For Domestic Travel”

    when in reality it’s a RECOMMENDATION.

    At least for now.

  43. I wonder if someone told CDC about Canadian hockey teams who travel for play-offs in the american cities by first crossing the border on a bus (no tests!) and then flying domestic routes? That’s what Maple Leafs did on the way to Tampa, they took a bus to Buffalo, then flew to Tampa. Vancouver did something similar, first going to Seattle, I think, by bus, then flying to LA for the games.

  44. The CDC (and the bureaucrats there) can go and fornicate themselves. Rectally.

  45. The requirement to test the day prior to returning to the US can put you in a lock box. We just returned from a remote island in the Maldives. Our flight left at 0100 which meant needing to test the prior day. This is difficult as the island resort takes a sample in the morning, flies it to a lab in Male which runs the test at night and tries to get the results back to us before being allowed in the airport. Made it by less than 15 minutes. The time to test should be at least 2 days prior, or better not at all.

  46. Right reported cases of Covid are three times of what it was 1 year ago and deaths are about half of what is was back in May 2021 (7 day average). CDC sees this and they have an urge to act. This is what they can do now – recommend more tests and wearing masks indoor. They would be happy to require all this but they simply lack power. Whether all this needed is another story…
    I did travel extensively through pandemic and continue traveling domestically and internationally and my work is in-person. Logged in >120k air miles last year. For the last 2.5 years I had a minor cold that lasted 1.5 days over a weekend. Traveling without a mask on a plane is such a relief!

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