CDC urges holiday travelers to get COVID-19 test before and after trip

SAUGUS, Mass. — As a fifth grade teacher in Stoneham, Rebecca Levi believes she should get tested for COVID-19 once a week.

“Even though nobody is telling me I have to, I kind of feel like it’s my responsibility,” Levi said.

Levi is not planning on going anywhere for the holidays, and she’s leery of people who are.

But she also thinks the new CDC guidelines send the wrong message.

“Honestly, I kind of feel like putting out that kind of guideline is like giving people permission to break the common sense rules,” Levi said.

“It’s like saying, ‘You shouldn’t go travel but if you are going to travel and do something you know isn’t so great, here’s a way to make it less bad,’” she said.

The CDC is now asking holiday travelers to get a test one to three days before a trip, and then another test three to five days after the trip.

Federal officials also want travelers to reduce “non-essential activities” for a full seven days after the trip, even if their test is negative.

“The one thing about the testing though, if you test negative today, that tells you that you are negative at the moment. It doesn’t tell you that you won’t become positive tomorrow,” said Dr. Matthew Fox, an epidemiologist at Boston University.

Dr. Fox said travelers need to assume they’re carrying the virus until they receive a negative test result.

And even with a negative result, they still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing, Dr. Fox said.

“What we don’t want is for people to think that just because they have a negative test, they don’t need to worry about things like social distancing, hand washing, masks and all of the things we’ve been arguing for in the past nine months,” Dr. Fox said.

Then there’s the issue of the turnaround time for results.

Lindsay Gilman of Melrose has been tested five times. She said most of her results came back within one day.

“There was only one time it took about three or four days but most of the time it’s been within 24 hours,” Gilman said.

Wakefield resident Tim Barker said finding time to get tested is the hard part.

“Scheduling is kind of a pain,” Barker said. “Trying to find a location that has a schedule that works around work or other things going on, that’s the only challenge, really.”

The CDC said if you travel and don’t get tested, considered isolating yourself and reducing your activities for a full 10 days after you come home.

And if you do get tested but the results aren’t back in time for your trip?

“Assume you are infected and act as you would if you were until you get the results,” Dr. Fox said.

Does that mean don’t take the trip?

“Either don’t go, or go and stay away from people except outside and at a distance,” Dr. Fox said.

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