“Some teachers say they’re fighting to ensure that all of their students can log into class each day,” our health reporter Olga Khazan writes.
One question, answered: I’m planning to travel to see loved ones. I haven’t had any symptoms or been exposed, but I’m worried about getting other people sick. Given all the testing shortages, should I get tested as part of my preparation for the trip? Or afterward?
Robinson Meyer, who just reported on a potential testing plan that could give us our lives back, responds:
As long as you’re not trying to get tested multiple times a week, for several weeks in a row, I don’t think you need to be worried about exacerbating a testing shortage. Right now, the federal government does not say that states (or individuals) should be trying to ration tests. In fact, many states require newcomers to get tested or quarantine for 14 days, and national testing numbers might be declining in part because fewer asymptomatic people are seeking out tests.
What’s more: One of the biggest risks of traveling during the pandemic isn’t catching the virus but spreading it. So you’re doing the right thing by getting tested! You don’t want to bring the virus to a town or a city that hasn’t faced it yet.
That said: There are right and wrong ways to get tested. It will probably take a few days for any test result to come back, so don’t get tested right before you leave. And it will also take a few days after you get infected for the virus to build up in your system, so you shouldn’t get tested right after you arrive. (If you contract the virus on a flight, but get tested the next day, then you will still test negative.) I think that Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT who has been studying testing, has the best plan for how to fit testing into a safe travel plan:
You should get tested three days before you plan to depart. If the test is negative, then you can travel. If it’s positive, then delay your plans and quarantine for 14 days. You can travel when that period has passed (and you don’t need to get tested again).
For people with a negative first test: Once you arrive at your destination, you should get a second COVID-19 test, but it must be at least five days after the first test. Quarantine as much as possible until you get your result. If this second test is negative, your quarantine is over. If it’s positive, then quarantine for 14 days after your test date.
Finally: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a handy guide to which modes of travel are the riskiest for contracting or spreading COVID-19. And I should add that although the agency isn’t discouraging nonessential travel, it says: “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”
What to read if … you want practical tips: