What the new CDC guidelines mean for travel

Exciting news, to be sure. New CDC guidelines have been announced, greatly relaxing mask and social distancing rules for vaccinated people. There are, however, many important exceptions.

CAVEATS: To my knowledge, the information about the new CDC guidelines (and the existing ones) contained in this post was accurate as of May 14, 2021. This information is mainly targeted at American travelers.

A few days ago, I spoke with consumer travel expert and all-around nice guy Johnny Jet about the travel situation in 2021. You can listen to that interview below.

Since the only thing permanent about pandemic information is its impermanence, literally the day after publishing that interview new CDC guidelines finally recognized what scientists had been frantically waving their arms about for months; fully vaccinated Americans can safely dispense with masks and social distancing. Of course, there is some fine print that goes along with that which is still very important, though, alas, probably now more difficult to enforce than ever.

Per CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky, “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things you have stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Here’s the wonderful infographic the CDC released with this update.

New CDC guidelines for masks and social distancing

BUT!!! There’s always a but. (Great rap song title, BTW.) These new guidelines do not apply to healthcare facilities, particularly hospitals, prisons, homeless shelters, planes and pretty much all forms of public transport. Also, the CDC’s advice does not apply to local ordinances or inside businesses who chose to still enforce mask-wearing.

And none of this applies to unvaccinated people, obviously.

So, rest assured there’s still a good chance we’ll see one or two infuriating videos a week featuring some jackass intentionally coughing on people after some long-suffering hospital staffer asks them to put on a mask or GTFO. Aren’t other humans great?

What does all this mean for travel in 2021? There’s good news and bad new.

Good news: U.S. domestic travel, already in swift recovery, will be even easier with the new CDC guidelines. Vaccinated people (and unvaccinated people who don’t give a f*ck) will now be able to do more fun stuff with more people with fewer pandemic rules.

Bad news: Relaxed mask rules mean I now have to double check there isn’t food in my teeth every time I leave the house. But also, this changes nothing about international travel, which is still strongly discouraged, no matter what some imbecilic travel influencer says on a podcast that I listened to last week that made me kicky. There are still a lot of countries in the world where American are still officially not welcome and the U.S. State Department has labeled travel to roughly 130 countries as an “unprecedented risk to travelers.”

On a personal note, please listen to the State Department. Thank you.

If you absolutely must travel internationally for crucial reasons, or if you’re a selfish dick, you must still present a negative COVID test or proof of your COVID recovery before returning to the U.S. Your vaccination status is irrelevant. (For now. Tomorrow, who knows?)

Finally, there’s a bit of good news for all the selfish dicks out there. The U.S. will now allow people to use a $25 at-home COVID test when returning from international travel. You’ll need a decent internet connection to download the app, which allows the Deep State, Martians and Bill Gates to monitor your test on a (required) telehealth video call. You’ll then need to upload the results to whatever airline is bringing you into the U.S.

On the topic of international travel

One thing to remember, particularly for Americans, is you don’t need to travel a thousand miles to have a nice vacation. We live in a gigantic, sprawling country with virtually every vacation enticement imaginable. Again, I cannot say this enough, don’t be a dick. Keep it domestic this summer. Or at least until next week when all the rules change again. Nonetheless, I’m a fan of rules, so the official Killing Batteries catch-all stance on this subject remains “Don’t be a dick.”

If “don’t be a dick” isn’t persuasive enough for your Uncle Travis who believes he absolutely must go to Cabo in order for his vacation to count, keep in mind that destination and travel restrictions are changing constantly. Airlines are no longer giving refunds to people who book a trip in, say, November and then later decide to back out due to rule changes or new variant outbreaks. There’s a real risk that Uncle Travis’ money will be lost and then his greatly diminished vacation budget will only allow for a vacation in his back yard with a kiddie pool, canned margaritas and frozen pizzas.

I’m painfully aware and sympathetic to the desperate situation in many international destinations that are wholly dependent on tourism revenue to survive and feed themselves. But this is true for countless people and industries right now. To argue that it’s our responsibility to travel internationally and spend money to save these communities ignores the possibility that your presence could prolong the absence of tourism, and their suffering, by facilitating a new outbreak.

It sucks. So many things suck right now. But the big, BIG picture is these folks can recover sooner, and hopefully permanently, if you stay away for just a little bit longer.

Stay tuned.