With nearly every state having opened vaccinations to all adults, the CDC on Friday announced the second loosening of certain federal guidelines by declaring that all Americans who are "fully vaccinated" - a status obtained two weeks after the second dose (for Moderna and Pfizer) or the one and only dose (for JNJ) can travel "at low risk to themselves" both with the US and abroad, and won't need to be tested for COVID before boarding a plane.
However, the CDC advised that they should continue to take precautions like wearing a mask in public, avoiding crowds, maintaining social distancing and washing one's hands frequently.
While the press celebrated the advisory as a milestone in the road back to "normalcy", some wondered whether the CDC got the memo about packed seats on airplanes and the virtually completely reopened Florida that's attracting tourists from around the country.
CDC TO SAY VACCINATED PEOPLE CAN NOW TRAVEL: POLITICO— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) April 2, 2021
Should I not have been traveling this whole time. Oops
While many Americans might not have realized it, the CDC has officially discouraged Americans from traveling - until now.
As more countries prepare to start using vaccine passports (airports have already been demanding proof of negative COVID status since last summer), the CDC said vaccinated Americans will not need a COVID test to travel anywhere, including another country (that is, unless they're required to do so by authorities in their destination country).
While all this probably sounds promising, there's a catch: vaccinated travelers still have to get a negative test result before boarding a flight back to the US, where they then must be tested against 3-5 days after returning home. This could create the potential for an explosion of false positives as some have linked to over-magnification on PCR tests used to detect the virus.
As we noted earlier, the CDC's latest edict, just like its first one, is essentially "permission" to do something that millions of Americans are already doing. What's wrong here? Did the CDC not get the memo that states are reopening already?
The answer can be found in a recent interview featuring Dr. Leana Wen, a former head of Planned Parenthood who served as a "medical expert" on CNN (just the facts, right people?).
She explained that the CDC's only hope for convincing every adult American to get vaccinated is to withhold the "carrot" of freedoms from the people until they assent to being vaccinated.
Since the CDC wants everybody to continue observing social distancing guidelines like wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance, limiting their ability to travel and visit public places is really the only option. As Wen pointed out, the CDC needs to find ways to force people to get the vaccine now, or otherwise people "are going to go out and enjoy these freedoms anyway."
"we need to make it clear to them that the vaccine is the ticket back to pre-pandemic life and the window to do that is really narrowing..." Wen added.
Put another way, while this latest message is couched as the CDC loosening restrictions on travel, what's really happening is the government is giving private industry the green light to start barring travelers and customers who can't prove their vaccination status. So instead of granting more freedom, they're preparing to take freedoms away.
This latest announcement adds to the CDC's previous guidance, released in March, allowing fully vaccinated people to visit with others in small groups in a private setting. We expect more declarations about the rights of the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated will be made in the near future.