Little will bring home how much travel has changed than realising that a negative test is required before the simple act of traveling from one US state to another. 

Let’s start with the obvious part. In order to enjoy the luxury of travel at this time it’s important everyone does what is asked of them. So should you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive, come into contact with someone who has, or be waiting on a viral or antibody test result, then traveling from one place to another and coming into contact with a relatively large number of people while doing so is one of the most irresponsible things that you can do. 

Assuming you are healthy, being responsible right now is about doing one’s best to keep yourself and others safe. In its simplest form this entails complying with the basic requests made of us: wear a mask when asked to do so, wash hands frequently, and keep your distance. Should you do these things, airlines will be keen to have you on board and have put in place a wide range of measures, detailed prominently on their websites, aimed at keeping you safe. 

White man wearing a white face mask covering his nose and mouth. He's sat in an airport with a wheelie suitcace next to him
Being responsible means doing what's requested of you, such as wearing a mask when traveling © Getty Images / iStockphoto

This question is partly about the impact of individuals moving around the US and potentially helping to spread COVID. And there’s no denying that staying close to home prevents the spread of the virus. CDC guidance is to check the statistics for infection rates in the state you are planning on visiting. If the virus is spreading where you’re traveling to then you are putting yourself, your loved ones and those you come into contact with on the journey at greater risk by going ahead with your plans. Considering personal responsibility, travelers may want to check the reverse as well: if your home area has a growing number of cases then you may inadvertently spread COVID to your destination and while in transit, including to close family.

If you are comfortable both your destination and where you are traveling from have relatively low rates of COVID, it’s possible to argue that the lower risk type of transport you choose, the more responsible you are being. The CDC places flying in medium to medium-high risk categories when weighed up against other types of transportation. Keeping distance from others may be easier or harder depending on which airline you choose to fly with. We ran through a few different options a while back, though do check for up-to-date information from airlines when booking. Flying with layovers, with its extra time in security lanes and frequently touched services, is in the high-risk CDC category. The lowest risk is from private car journeys only containing members of your own household.

Ask LP: are airlines doing enough to keep us safe from COVID-19?

The other side of this debate is the economic impact of not flying when you were intending to spend some tourist dollars. In many cases, individual states are doing their best to stay open for business, but it varies considerably. Individual states are at different places in how welcome your visit will be and, indeed, any additional requirements they are making of visitors. New York, Maine and Alaska are three examples of states with differing restrictions, in some cases based on where you are traveling from. There are also locations within states with specific requirements, such as Chicago. Not only is it responsible to heed requests made of you, but it will also be in many cases a legal requirement. Links to guidance for each state can be found here.


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