COVID-19 Q&A: How getting vaccinated affects travel
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska News Source is answering viewer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. As people get vaccinated, we’re receiving many viewer questions about whether being vaccinated will exempt you from travel mandates like testing and quarantine. It doesn’t. Here’s why.
Here are a few of the travel-related vaccine questions viewers have asked:
“Has there been any decision regarding if a resident traveling back into Alaska needs to take the COVID test at the airport if they can show proof that they had have previously received both COVID shots?” - Shari
“I have not been able to find any information about out of state air travel rules after vaccination. Would the ‘had it and recovered rules’ apply or is there another protocol that will be published? Vaccinated people need to know!” - MB
“My question is concerning travel from Alaska to Phoenix, Arizona next month. We [will] have been vaccinated with two doses of the Moderna vaccine by then with additional three weeks after the booster shot. Do we need to test before we leave? Do we need to test after we get back? Is it safe to go? Do we have to quarantine until we get the results of the test? Can I go back to work while awaiting test results?” - Mark
Alaska’s public health team said Alaska’s travel mandates remain in place and apply to everyone, regardless of whether you have natural immunity due to recovering from COVID-19 or immunity through vaccination.
Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska Dr. Anne Zink said this is because it is not known whether vaccinations prevent infection and transmission of the virus, and testing is an important strategy for detection of the illness and reducing community spread.
This concern has heightened recently with the appearance in the United States of a more easily spread variant of the dominant strains of COVID-19 known as B.1.1.7. On Tuesday Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services announced this variant strain had been detected in an Anchorage resident and said it was likely more cases of B.1.1.7 would turn up in Alaska.
Alasska’s travel mandates require testing and quarantine, but there is some flexibility for Alaska residents making short trips out of state and returning. A combination of quarantine and/or testing are still required, but the quarantine period may be shortened if tests for COVID-19 come back negative. COVID-19 information for travel in and out of Alaska is available on the state’s “safe travels” web page.
Alaska residents returning to Alaska are asked to take a COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to travel. If those test results are in-hand when you land, you do not need to test while at the airport. However, you will be asked to fill out a traveler declaration and self-isolation plan.
For travelers leaving Alaska, check regulations for the states you are entering. For example, while the state of Arizona had travel restrictions in place early in the pandemic, that mandate has expired. According to the Arizona Office of Tourism, “there are no travel restrictions for individuals traveling to or through Arizona.”
Regarding whether travel is safe, Alaska’s health team has said the risk of getting sick or spreading the virus increases any time people mingle, including during travel. Need for travel and risk tolerance are individual decisions. For people who are traveling, the state’s health team recommends the use of a well-fitted mask, hand washing, social distancing and crowd avoidance. Because the risk of exposure increases during travel, Zink recommends testing before, during and after travel so that you can comfortably take care of yourself if you are ill, and so that you are able to proactively take steps to protect the community by staying home until you are no longer infectious.
Upon returning to Alaska, you should not return to work until you have met the state’s requirements for testing and quarantine.
Crtitical infrastructure workers should check with their employer for guidance on returning to work after travel. The state of Alaska advises that critical infrastructure workers “are still allowed to forego the State testing requirements in HO-6 [Health Order 6] if their employer has established alternate protective measures in their Community Workforce Protective Plan.”
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