How some people travel to the US after positive Covid tests

Michelle Fishman calls it “the worst case scenario you don’t really think about.”

After a three-week vacation in Greece, the 52-year-old hotel technical consultant from Miami and her husband underwent coronavirus tests before the required departure to fly home from abroad. Her test result was positive, but he didn’t.

Despite the relaxation of travel restrictions due to the Corona virus in many parts of the world, the United States still requires all international airline passengers to submit a negative test to be taken within one day of departure. According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ms Fishman should have isolated and delayed travel by 10 days, but said she had to go home early to arrange a wedding.

Instead, it took advantage of a peculiar feature of the rules to return home after five days (the mandatory self-isolation period required by the Greek government) via a “back door” – crossing into the US by land, which does not require the presence of the coronavirus. instead of air. Since Canada does not require an entrance test, the couple first traveled to Toronto, and after spending a night there, Ms. Fishman and her husband traveled across the border to Buffalo and took the return flight. (There are no testing requirements to fly locally.)

“I had no symptoms, no fever, nothing. I felt fine, and when you are in the US, the CDC says you can end your isolation five days after a positive test result, so the same rules should apply,” Ms. Fishman said. When I travel.” “It doesn’t make sense that I can go to a wedding five days after I test positive in Miami, but if I catch the virus when I’m on vacation, I can’t go home. It should be illegal.”

It is not clear how many infected people use back roads to get home, which could also include travel to Mexico and the use of the land crossing there, because airlines do not require passengers to provide reasons for canceling or changing flights. But strong anecdotal evidence suggests that some travelers – and travel consultants – share suggestions on how to avoid getting into trouble.

Ms Fishman, while traveling to Toronto, said she was following the instructions of a family friend who used a similar back route to get home in Boston when she tested positive for the virus in France in April.

When asked if she was concerned about infecting other passengers on her long flight home from Greece (she tested positive again, on her fifth day), Ms Fishman referred to the CDC’s guidance for people who contract the virus in the United States, which says that people can Those who are asymptomatic or those with symptoms that have resolved during the five-day isolation period should leave their homes. The recommendation is based on the science that the majority of coronavirus transmission occurs early in the course of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“I slept in the same bed as my husband for five nights and he didn’t catch him, so I don’t think I was contagious when I got home,” said Ms. Fishman. “I was wearing a mask the whole time.”

The CDC did not say why there are different policies for Americans who have tested positive for the virus at home and abroad, but a spokeswoman for the agency reiterated that travelers should follow the 10-day no-travel guidelines before boarding a flight to the United States. Even if the test result is negative. The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the possibility of travelers using the land border to circumvent air travel testing requirements.

The United States introduced the test requirement in January 2021, when less than 10 percent of Americans were vaccinated and new infections and hospitalizations reached record levels. Now, with higher vaccination rates and less serious virus cases, many American travelers, as well as industry representatives, are calling for the requirement to be lifted, arguing that it does little to prevent new types of virus from spreading in the United States. States.

“The existence of these solutions highlights the absurdity of the current internal testing policy that is nothing short of ineffective,” said Erica Richter, vice president of communications for the American Society of Travel Consultants, a trade organization. “We don’t follow science.”

David Friedman, president-elect of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, is concerned about travelers using this method, warning that infected people who take a flight or public transportation to a border crossing will put many people unable to do so. History of immunizations at risk, including airport restaurants and other places along the route.

“From a public health point of view, an infected person may carry one of the new variants of BA.4 or BA.5 which is more contagious and not yet common in the United States.” “There may be new, improved vaccines by the fall and introducing these variants sooner rather than later may be a bad thing.”

After testing positive in Stockholm in early April, an American traveler and her wife decided to return to Seattle via Vancouver, because the border crossing between the United States and Canada was relatively close to their home. She said that if she is asked to get tested when she arrives at Vancouver airport, she plans to go home and isolate there. The woman asked to speak anonymously, as she was afraid of negative repercussions.

“We had symptoms for about two weeks before testing positive. By the time we tested positive, we were relieved, barely showing any symptoms, so we felt confident to travel.” “Vancouver airport is very cold and quiet. If you look healthy, assertive and comfortable, no one will take you out from the crowd.”

Upon arrival, Canadian officials often ask questions about the health of passengers, and some airports, such as those in Toronto and Vancouver, may select some passengers at random for coronavirus tests before they are allowed to leave the airport.

Canadian authorities are warning infected people against trying to cross through Canada, saying they are not allowed into the country if they show symptoms of Covid-19 or become infected within 10 days of leaving. Before arriving in Canada, travelers are required to fill out a health and travel form on the ArriveCAN app. The form contains a number of questions, including vaccination status and whether the passenger has symptoms of coronavirus.

“All travelers arriving in Canada are obligated by Canadian law to honestly answer all questions,” said Rebecca Purdy, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency.

“Travelers who intentionally travel to Canada with active Covid-19 infection and who do not disclose this information may face penalties and/or criminal charges and foreign nationals may also be denied entry and/or denied return to Canada,” Ms Purdy said.

Mexican authorities did not respond to requests for comment. US travelers can enter Mexico without being tested or quarantined, although they may undergo health checks upon arrival.

Despite the cost of last minute reservations, back roads are also used by people proactively, to ensure they can travel home on time.

User experience designer Hilary Aranda, 39, had just finished a two-week dance tour in Italy when 12 Americans in her group tested positive. To avoid a positive result and the potential headaches involved, she never took a test and instead canceled her flight to Los Angeles on a flight to Tijuana, Mexico, with stops in London and Mexico City. She then crossed the land border into San Diego and returned home. Changes to the itinerary brought it back more than $2,000.

“Everyone around me had Covid, and I knew fortunately that if I did get tested, it would be positive and I didn’t want to risk it,” said Ms Aranda, who wore a mask on board her flights. “Looking back, it was a kind of crazy decision and a big shlip, but I had to go back to my life and my kids.”

Some risk-averse travelers, but still determined to avoid isolation in another country, use telemedicine services such as Quick MD to obtain “recovery documents” that allow people to travel to the United States without having to show a negative test. The option is available for travelers who continue to test positive 10 days after their initial positive test or the onset of symptoms, as it may take weeks or even months before some people test negative.

During a video or telephone consultation with a medical professional authorized to grant travel authorization, some travelers were lying about the date their symptoms started so they could go home without having to complete the 10-day isolation period.

“It was a three-minute consultation and I just told the doctor my symptoms started earlier than they were,” said one traveler, who asked to speak anonymously for fear of getting into trouble with the authorities. He said he had tested positive in London a day before his scheduled trip to New York, but returned home three days later.

“I got my release document within an hour, it was very easy,” he said.

Quick MD did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Ms Fishman came home in time for the wedding and never showed symptoms of Covid-19, although she said she felt overwhelmed, which she blamed on the stress of the ordeal of trying to go back in time.

“My chances of catching Covid in Miami are no less than I contracting it while traveling, so testing requirements are futile in my opinion,” she said.

Travelers considering a similar route should be warned that they could be arrested. Ms Purdy, of Canada Border Services, noted that breaching the instructions upon entering Canada could result in up to six months in prison, a fine of C$750,000 (about $586,000) or both.

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