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CDC Says Vaccinated People Safe to Travel, But Urges Against It as Covid-19 Cases Again Surge

The agency's new guidance came the same day Dr. Anthony Fauci said there's something akin to "a race between the potential for a surge and our ability to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can."

Travelers arrive for flights at O'Hare international Airport on March 16, 2021 in Chicago.

Travelers arrive for flights at O'Hare international Airport on March 16, 2021 in Chicago. On March 12, the TSA screened more than 1.3 million travelers, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that Americans who've been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can travel safely—properly masked—within the country, but cautioned against taking trips in light of a growing number of coronavirus cases.

"Fully vaccinated" is defined as a person being two weeks out from the second of a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer's and Moderna's or from a one-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson's.

The new guidance urges domestic travelers to follow virus-controlling public health measures including mask-wearing on any form of public transportation, staying at least six feet apart from those not in one's travel group, frequent hand washing, and watching for any Covid-19 symptoms post-travel.

International travel, the guidance warns, poses "additional risks," and "even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new Covid-19 variants."

Fully vaccinated Americans embarking on international travel do not need to be tested before traveling unless required by the destination, the agency says, but they should be tested 3-5 days after traveling.

Still, given the rise in Covid-19 cases across the nation, the CDC suggests that staying home is still the safest public health option for the moment.

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The latest 7-day moving average of new case in the U.S. is 63,974, CNN reported Friday, reflecting an 11% increase since last week.

"While we believe that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday a White House Covid-19 Response team briefing.

The new guidance caps a week begun with Walensky expressing a sense of "impending doom" amid the rise in cases. "We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I'm scared," she said at a pandemic task force briefing Monday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, sounded a more optimistic note in an interview with NPR Friday, pointing to the increasing number of Americans receiving their vaccines.

Fauci said that there are "over 50 million people who are fully vaccinated, just short of 100 million who have received at least one dose. And we are vaccinating about 3 million people per day."

"So in some respects, it's kind of like a race between the potential for a surge and our ability to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can," said Fauci. "And hopefully, if you want to make this a metaphorical race, the vaccine is going to win this one."

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