Why you should get COVID-19 tested even if you’re not flying

Mar 17, 2021

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Nearly 30 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and it appears the United States may finally be turning a corner in the pandemic.

But as vaccination rates tick upward, there’s been another disturbing trend: COVID-19 testing has decreased, according to the news website Axios. Just 1.17 million people were tested in the U.S. on March 7, compared to nearly 2 million tests on the same date in January, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Even if you aren’t traveling, and yes, even if you’ve been vaccinated, experts say it’s still essential to get tested often for COVID-19. Here’s why you should still get tested for COVID-19, even if you’re not planning to hop on a plane soon. 

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In This Post

Do I still have to get tested for COVID-19 if I’ve been vaccinated?

All travelers flying to the U.S. need to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding. Travelers who have been vaccinated are not exempt from this requirement, so if you plan to fly internationally, you’ll need to get tested anyway. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages even those who have been fully vaccinated to take precautions such as testing before and after travel and staying in quarantine for seven days after traveling. And even if you’ve been vaccinated, current guidelines suggest waiting two weeks before you hit the road. 

It’s still unclear whether people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can be asymptomatic carriers, and experts say people who have been vaccinated should err on the side of caution.

“There are studies that say that even though there you’re vaccinated, you can still carry the virus and transmit it to someone else,” said Dr. Michael Haddad, the owner of Urgent Medical Care & MRI in Jersey City, New Jersey, which offers a range of COVID-19 tests.

Related: What you need to know about getting COVID-19 tested for US-bound international flights

Should I still get tested even if I’m not flying?

(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

After being vaccinated, not everyone will immediately book a flight to paradise. 

Some travelers may instead opt for road trips, train rides or staycations. Still, if you’ll be in contact with others outside of your “pod” or household, frequent testing is a best practice.

Though the CDC is still recommending that people avoid travel, the agency also has specific recommendations for getting tested. Also, remember to avoid crowds and self-quarantine for seven days after your trip, even if you test negative for COVID-19.

Why are COVID-19 testing rates going down?

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

After a grim winter and the emergence of several highly contagious variants of the coronavirus, news of vaccines with high efficacy rates brought much-welcomed hope.

According to the CDC, just under 10% of the population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are down, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Experts point to this confluence to explain why testing has dropped.

“The vaccinations definitely changed people’s mindset as far as getting tested,” said Dr. Haddad, but he noted that his clinic, which caters to travelers looking for expedited test results, hasn’t seen a dip in demand.

Dr. Haddad also noted that although promising, the current vaccinations numbers aren’t enough. 

“That’s nowhere near what we need,” Dr. Haddad continued. “We need to be at 70% or 80% of the population being vaccinated for it to make a difference. Until we get that herd immunity, this is going to go on and on.”

Where can I get a COVID-19 test?

(Photo by Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

What’s become clear is that, despite the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, people will still need to get tested in order to travel and take part in other activities. Many countries and some states require negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests taken within a certain amount of time — usually 72 hours — before departure. 

Many facilities can provide results between 48 and 72 hours, and some can even process PCR tests in as little as an hour. These types of tests can be helpful even if you aren’t traveling: I scheduled a rapid PCR test in advance of a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden recently. 

Related: Traveling soon? Here’s where you can quickly get a COVID-19 PCR test for travel

Bottom line

Even if you aren’t flying or traveling right now, you should still make COVID-19 testing part of your regular routine, regardless of whether or not you’ve received a vaccine. Experts are still unsure about asymptomatic spread for those who have been vaccinated, so taking all precautions is essential, especially as troubling variants of the virus continue to emerge around the world.

Featured photo by Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

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