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.
So, CDC is worried updating vaccines might "create an impression that we don’t have a very effective vaccination program".
Having vaccines available only for a long-extinct strain when we could easily update them would surely not be the answer here to fixing that "impression". pic.twitter.com/V1JfViekpt
— zeynep tufekci (@zeynep) May 18, 2022
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.