There once was hope that by now we would be entering a new era of largely unrestricted travel.
Nearly everyone was going to vaccinated by now. COVID-19 was going to be so 2020. And flying, taking a train, or driving was going to be — well, it hasn’t exactly been easy for decades — not something like impossible.
In late October the U.S. State Department announced it would greatly ease the near ban on non-essential travel from other countries to the United States, and local restrictions in America that hadn’t already been dropped were falling fast. The holiday season was starting to look almost normal again.
The British were coming! The Canadians were coming! The Brazilians were coming! And the world was reopening to Americans.
That was so early November. So pre-omicron. So pre-winter 2021-22 surge.
As Americans have seen since the start of the coronavirus crisis in February, 2020, conditions and rules change fast. Here’s the latest as set by the U.S. Department of State, as advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
— Visitors to the United States (non-citizens and non U.S. immigrants) are required to be fully vaccinated, with proof of a full series of shots completed at least 14 days prior to travel.
— Starting in early December, all people traveling to the United States ages 2 years or older — including American citizens abroad — are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of travel.
— Masks are required over mouth and nose in all indoor areas of public transportation and in airports and other transportation hubs.
— In the past six weeks, the U.S. Department of State has issued “Do Not Travel To” advisories for dozens of countries, including many in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, because of COVID-19 outbreaks there, or because of COVID-19 travel restrictions in those countries.
Those State Department edicts are advisories only — not mandatory. But they chill.
The travel industry is frustrated.
“We hope this measure to narrow the pre-departure testing window will be temporary until more is learned about the Omicron variant. In the meantime, the travel industry urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said after the negative-test requirement was accelerated from three days. “It has long been known that measures to combat the virus and its variants would evolve and require us to be nimble and adapt.
“It is critically important that we communicate these policy changes clearly to global travelers and continue to welcome all qualified visitors to the United States,” she added.
The State Department’s list of new “Do Not Travel” countries for Americans, due to COVID-19, updated frequently, includes Andorra, Belgium, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Italy, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Poland, Portugal, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Slovakia, South Africa, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, and Zimbabwe.
Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Greece, Cambodia, and Norway, have had “Do Not Travel” advisories from previous times, which have not been lifted.
Florida, as per Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ policies and orders, remains open with no restrictions. Vaccinations and masks are optional, though the state does advise eligible travelers get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before coming. VISIT FLORIDA President Dana Young said many people who might be taking international trips are coming to Florida this year.
“It makes sense that they would come to Florida because of the Governor keeping our state open and providing a level of freedom that is not seen in other states,” Young said.
Among other states, according to the official national visitation agency, Brand USA:
— California advises all travelers to that state to follow CDC guidelines and says the “should” be tested within three to five days of arrival in the Golden State, and should isolate if they test positive.
— Hawaii is advising all people who arrive, including Hawaiians, that they “should be prepared to undergo a 10-day quarantine upon arrival and closely monitor their health for the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 OR undergo pre-testing from a trusted partner in the SafeTravels Pre-testing Travel program.
— Many other states including Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Alabama, and New York urge travelers to follow CDC guidelines, including getting fully vaccinated before traveling, masking in enclosed places, delaying travel if sick or exposed to someone with COVID-19, and seeking isolation and tests if they start showing symptoms.