Here's How President Biden's COVID-19 Plan Will Impact US Travel
[Updated 02 24 2021]
Within his first few days as the 46th President of the United States of America, Joe Biden implemented a new set of state-side COVID-19 travel regulations.
After rescinding the ban that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States, he continued rolling out executive orders related to tourism to create stricter COVID-19 regulations.
As a part of his Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce, masks are now required in National Parks and at monuments, memorials, and historic sites that are a part of the federal lands. The executive order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel requires face masks on all modes of interstate transportation within the States, including flights, buses, ships, and trains as well as in airports. While U.S. airlines have already been requiring passengers to wear masks, this is the first time there’s been a federally mandated mask policy during the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the early January policy requiring negative COVID-19 tests for arriving travelers, all passengers arriving into the United States will now be required to quarantine. The administration has stated that anyone coming into the United States by air, “will need to test before they get onto that plane before they depart and quarantine when they arrive in America.”
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement that "we welcome the president’s focus on policies that will encourage safe travel and help restore the millions of U.S. travel jobs that were lost last year... and we also strongly support the president’s mask mandate for interstate travel, which is in line with the industry’s health and safety guidance.”
The COVID-19 travel executive order went into effect on January 26th. However, the White House has yet to release a statement regarding the length of the mandatory quarantine period for incoming visitors. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the Coast Guard are all expected to provide recommendations on the quarantine length within the next week, in addition to a plan to handle fraudulent tests and entry for passengers arriving from countries where tests aren’t easily accessible.
Some medical professionals support the comprehensive plan. For instance, Bob Bacheler, a critical care flight nurse said “President Biden’s policies are merely bringing the United States closer to the rest of the world’s standards. Every country I’ve entered has required had some form of COVID-19 testing. Some were as simple as a temperature check and a document indicating travel history (Mexico) to being met at the airport by people in full PPE and receiving a Covid test at the airport (Togo). When I’d return to the US, I’d pass through customs and never speak to anyone or have anyone ask where I had been.”
Cherene Saradar, a travel blogger and a nurse anesthetist who has been working with COVID-19 patients, reflected a similar sentiment saying that she’d like to see stricter requirements for those traveling domestically.
Lola Méndez is a sustainable travel advocate who writes the responsible lifestyle blog Miss Filatelista.
Hikers asked not to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail this year
Hikers hoping to spend 2021 hiking the Appalachian Trail are being asked to postpone their trips until 2022 by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, citing concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Health officials say that the COVID-19 risk comes not from the hike itself, but the travel to and from trail points across the country. The ATC is actively discouraging long-distance hiking this year, and says it will not be distributing any AT Hangtags in 2021. Hangtags are plastic tags given to hikers that have registered their thru-hike with the ATC. Distribution of the hangtags helps the agency understand how many hikers are using the trail per year. Hangtags will not be distributed until the CDC has deemed the pandemic "under control," or a vaccine is more widely available to the general population. ATC President and CEO, Sandra Marra, told CNN that "we're really basing our guidance on the best information we have. The guidance is based on science, on the states and the federal outline as to how we can proceed until everyone is fully vaccinated." The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking footpath in the world, covering over 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine.
Will you be able to travel in 2021? Here's what you need to know:
With the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out across the world, people are starting to think about booking vacations again. But even with light appearing at the end of the tunnel, should you feel safe about making 2021 travel reservations? “I really want to book a trip so I have something to look forward to, but it feels too uncertain right now,” said Kim Easton, who was a semi-frequent traveler before the pandemic. “I am waiting to be vaccinated and, honestly, for Dr. Fauci to tell me it’s safe.” Plan for later in the year Most travel experts suggest making plans for later in the year now. Most people currently planning trips are eyeing summer and later departures, says Justin Wood, REI’s Senior Manager of Adventure Travel. If complications arise, clients can always cancel or reschedule, often with no financial penalty. (More on this later.) REI Travel began running trips again toward the end of last year, following expert-recommended precautions – mask wearing, social distancing, daily temperature taking, and so on. Even with the vaccine being rolled out, expect most outfitters to continue these practices for at least the remainder of 2021, and maybe a few more pre-booking requirements added. Some companies might mandate quarantining and a negative test right before departure, while others, later in the year, may require proof that the traveler has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Trips that require gathering in crowded, indoor spaces should probably be avoided for the foreseeable future. Outdoor-adventure trips, like bike touring or hiking a remote national forest, may be the safest option, with the necessary precautions in place. Where To Go? Budget Travel recommends planning all 2021 travel within the USA - we've been helping people Rediscover America since the pandemic began. International borders are largely closed to American travelers, with no timeframes for reopening. Because of the unpredictable nature of the virus, places that are safe at the time of booking might be hot spots by the time your vacation rolls around. Countries that had done remarkable jobs mitigating the virus early on – Japan and South Korea, for example – saw their number of infections rise as the temperatures fell and people began spending more time indoors. “My feeling is that people won’t think seriously about booking international tours until we’re reached a critical mass of vaccinated people — not necessarily herd immunity but enough to see all the numbers starting to decrease,” said Jim Johnson, owner of BikeTours.com, which offers clients one-stop shopping for nearly 70 bike tour companies across Europe. “Of course, borders need to be open as well. But don’t wait too long to book international tours. Many Americans don’t realize that many European tour companies have at least passable fall seasons. I’d recommend that people book now (after) checking the cancellation and postponement policies of the tour company.” But domestic travel doesn’t come without risks either. Don’t automatically assume most precautions will be eased or lifted by the end of the year. So far, the U.S. vaccine rollout has gone much slower than anticipated (although that’s likely to change with the new administration) and an unfortunately large number of people have announced they intend to not get the shots. Please closely follow the CDC and the health department of your destination to find out the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 pandemic. Focus on Activity, Not Destination While the pandemic rages, Wood says travelers are booking travel based on activities – say hiking, cycling, and paddling – more so than specific destinations. “By their very nature, bicycle tours consist of small groups maintaining their distance most of the day,” Johnson said. “This is especially true on self-guided tours where you ride with people you know and choose when and where to stop. Likewise, bike tours take place outdoors in open spaces, and frequently in rural settings. Lower concentrations of people and freer flow of air both reduce contagion.” Many outfitters already focused on small-group travel before the pandemic, and those groups may get even smaller in 2021.Wood says private departures for families and close friends are increasing popular, as REI has dropped the price, making it comparable to a standard group trip. Self-guided trips, where individuals or small groups travel on their own using a pre-created itinerary, have also increased in popularity during the pandemic and will likely continue to be one of the preferred ways to travel in 2021, Johnson says. As the pandemic continues to rage on, Johnson established a sister company, Bike the South (https://www.bike-the-south.com/), that will offer guided, self-guided and supported bicycle tours in the Southeast. That site will launch later this month and start tours in April. Will You Be Able to Get Your Money Back If Covid is Still Raging? Most domestic airlines are forgoing change or cancellation fees until at least March 31 (assuming your new departure dates are within a year of the originals) and may extend the policy further into 2021. Be sure to search the airline’s website for specific details before you book your flight. Many large hotel chains had fairly lenient cancellation policies even before the pandemic. But if you’re staying at an independently owned hotel or airbnb, you may not be able to cancel without incurring a penalty. Likewise, outfitters will have their own individual cancellation policies. Buying travel insurance might seem like a wise precaution, but beware. While it might help you if you’re diagnosed with Covid before or during your trip, you may be out of luck if you get cold feet because your vacation location is in the middle of a pandemic hot spot. Before buying a policy, be sure to check the policy or discuss with an agent your concerns.
USA to require negative COVID-19 test for all arriving international travelers
On Tuesday, the CDC announced a new requirement that anyone flying to the US must show a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed entry to the United States. The order takes effect in two weeks, on January 26, 2021. It applies to US citizens as well as foreign travelers. The order requires arriving air passengers to show proof of a negative COVID test within 3 days of their flight to the US. Alternatively, travelers can show proof that they've had the disease in the past and recovered, or that they have been vaccinated. Americans are banned from traveling to most countries across the world, and countries that do allow Americans to enter have required negative COVID tests since mid-2020. The move begs the question: why weren't we doing this before? COVID is already widespread in the United States. On Tuesday, 230,000 new cases were reported, alongside 4,406 deaths. International travel is down an estimated 75% from prior years, due to restrictions in place around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disneyland to be converted to COVID-19 vaccination site
Orange County California officials have announced that Disneyland Resort in Anaheim will be converted into a Point-of-Dispersing site for COVID-19 vaccines. “The Disneyland Resort, the largest employer in the heart of Orange County, has stepped up to host the county’s first Super POD site – undertaking a monumental task in our vaccination distribution process,” said acting Chairman Andrew Do, First District. “We truly appreciate the support of the Orange County Fire Authority, our cities, and our residents as we continue to rollout COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the county.”Known as “Super POD” sites, the five regional Super PODs will have the capacity to vaccinate thousands of residents each day. The Super PODs will increase efficiency and provide multiple vaccine distribution points throughout Orange County. The County will announce additional Super POD sites as agreements are finalized. “I’m proud to have Disneyland Resorts and the City of Anaheim, both in my Fourth District, be the first of the Super POD sites in Orange County,” said Supervisor Doug Chaffee. “Residents in my district have been highly impacted by COVID-19. These Super PODs are absolutely critical in stopping this deadly virus.” Vaccine distribution is managed through a phased, tiered approach established by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Currently, vaccinations are available to Orange County residents and those who work in Orange County who meet the criteria for what is referred to as “Phase 1a, all tiers.” This group includes law enforcement first responders in high-risk communities and was recently expanded to include those age 75 and older. We are excited to serve this group as a priority population. The County is working in collaboration with community partners to create a process that reaches seniors close to home and best serves these individuals. “It's important to vaccinate as many willing people as possible for COVID-19, and we need the space to do it,” said Supervisor Donald P. Wagner, Third District. “I thank Disneyland Resort and the City of Anaheim for stepping up in the shared effort to give OC residents protection against the virus.” The first Super POD at the Disneyland Resort will be operational later this week. Most of those eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1a will be contacted through their employer to schedule an appointment via a third-party app developed in cooperation with the County of Orange.“In order to ensure a smooth and effective distribution of the vaccine as quickly as possible, it is so important that Orange County residents have the information they need on who, and when, they are eligible to receive the vaccine, and where they can go to receive it,” said Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, Fifth District. “We will have several sites across the county, including South County, and information on these locations will be available shortly. Please stay tuned to https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-vaccination-distribution for the latest information on vaccine distribution sites. In the meantime, please remain vigilant and protect you and your loved ones by practicing social distancing, good hygiene and wearing your masks.”