COVID-19 cases and deaths have been reported in all 50 states across the U.S. and in over 200 countries across the globe. Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, discerning potential travel plans with care is an important way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.
When you must travel away from your local community, keep informed about the current COVID-19 status of a potential destination and keep your family safe by avoiding travel to places of higher risk. Because of the risks associated with travel to places that have higher case rates and varied adherence to prevention measures, regular travel can increase your risk for exposure. When you do travel, practice the 3 W’s every time you are away from home and in close proximity to other groups of people. Wear a face covering. Wash your hands with soap and water. Watch your physical distance, staying at least 6 feet from others. Because COVID-19 is spreading in the United States and abroad, the CDC recommends that everyone wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth when in public, including during travel. Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of COVID-19 by helping keep people who are infected from spreading the virus to others.
Traveling Domestically or Internationally
When traveling domestically or internationally, avoid travel to areas of higher risk (IDPH Travel Advisory Map). Wear a mask while in the airport, during the flight, and during any shared transit. If your essential travel requires you to be in areas of higher risk, attempt to travel during less crowded / lower demand travel times in order to reduce exposure. Upon returning home, stay home if possible and monitor your health for 14 days. Symptoms to monitor for include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
Recreational Travel to Another State
Practice the 3 W’s from the time you leave your home and throughout your trip. Avoid travel to areas of higher risk. If you do travel to areas of higher risk, stay home if possible after returning and monitor your health for 14 days in order to protect the health and safety of yourself, as well as others. Symptoms to monitor for include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Remember that all travel, even travel to another state can increase your risk of exposure. CDC reminds us that when driving, making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you in close contact with other people. Safety information for various modes of transportation can be found on the CDC website Protect Yourself When Using Transportation.
Work Commute to Another State
Commuting to work in another state can increase your risk of exposure, especially when traveling to states with higher case rates. Commuting may bring you in contact with areas of poor adherence to public health prevention practices and increase your risk of infections. Practice the 3 W’s from the time you leave your home and throughout your commute. Consider working remotely when possible. If work requires you to travel regularly to another state, continuously monitor your health for symptoms of fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea. See CDC’s website What To Do If You Get Sick.
CDC Travel Guidance
If I travel, what steps should I take to help reduce my chances of getting sick?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, touching surfaces frequently touched by others, blowing your nose, coughing, and sneezing, and before touching your face or eating.
- If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub your hands together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with others, keeping 6 feet of distance.
- Wear a cloth face covering in public.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Pick up food at drive-throughs, curbside at restaurants, or stores.
- Make sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine.
Domestic and Interstate Travel
Can traveling to visit family or friends increase my chances of getting and spreading COVID-19?
Yes. Travel increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Before you travel, learn if COVID-19 is spreading in your local area or in any of the places you are going. Traveling to visit family may be especially dangerous if you or your loved ones are more likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19. People at higher risk for severe illness need to take extra precautions.
Should I avoid traveling internationally?
Avoid all nonessential international travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some health care systems are overwhelmed and there may be limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas. Many countries are implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and in-country travel may be unpredictable. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be disrupted, and you may have to remain outside the U.S. for an indefinite length of time.
CDC recommends travelers defer cruise ship travel worldwide at this time.
What can I expect when departing other countries?
Some countries are conducting exit screening for passengers leaving their country. Before being permitted to board a departing flight, you may have your temperature taken and be asked questions about your travel history and health.
What can I expect when arriving to the U.S.?
Travel restrictions and entry screening may apply to travelers arriving from some countries or regions with ongoing, widespread COVID-19.
You may be screened when you arrive in the U.S. If you have traveled to an area of higher risk, take the following steps upon your return to protect yourself and others:
- Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school for 14 days.
- Monitor your health for 14 days. Take your temperature two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.
- Keep at least 6 feet of distance from others.
When can I return to work after international travel?
International travelers returning home from areas of higher risk should stay home for 14 days after their arrival into the U.S. Once home, monitor your health and practice social distancing.
Can flying on an airplane increase my risk of getting COVID-19?
Yes. 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. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered in airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
What happens if there is a sick passenger on an international or domestic flight?
Under current federal regulations, pilots must report all illnesses and deaths to CDC before arriving to a U.S. destination. According to CDC disease protocols, if a sick traveler is considered a risk to the public’s health, CDC works with local and state health departments and international public health agencies to contact exposed passengers and crew.
Be sure to give the airline your current contact information when booking your ticket so you can be notified if you are exposed to a sick traveler on a flight.
Traveling safely begins with wise planning before you leave your home, planning for each stop / terminal along the way, and includes self-monitoring upon your return home.
COVID-19 testing is available widely across Illinois. For more information, please visit: http://dph.illinois.gov/testing.