The CDC has issued a Guidance addressing travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic in which the CDC advises that travel increases a person’s chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. The Guidance states that those who travel may spread COVID-19 to other people in the community for 14 days after the traveler was exposed to the virus. This means that the traveler can spread COVID-19 at work when the traveler returns, even if the traveler does not have symptoms.
Another part of the CDC website addresses the question:
Can traveling to visit family or friends increase my chances of getting and spreading COVID-19?
The CDC’s answer to that question is the following: Yes. Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19.
The CDC further states that gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19.
There is ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus within the United States and in destinations throughout the world.
Many people mistakenly believe that travel within the United States is safe. However, the CDC webpage states that someone who travels within the USA may be exposed to COVID-19 on their travels – not just international, but also traveling domestically. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can be contagious without symptoms and spread the virus to others.
The CDC notes that COVID-19 risk is high in the United States. The advice when you click on any state in the USA is the following:
Beginning in March 2020 the CDC advised travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days after all international travel, and after domestic travel to states seeing a high rate of coronavirus cases. In August 2020 the CDC removed from its website the directions for two-week quarantines from the “After You Travel” section of its coronavirus travel guidance.
However, doctors are still recommending quarantining after travel. For example, Lawrence Mayer, an epidemiologist and visiting fellow at Harvard University, says quarantines can be useful in returning from a high-risk area if you aren’t able to acquire a test and will be around some higher-risk individuals. Mayer says, without testing upon return, a 14-day quarantine “seems reasonable” to prevent the spread of the virus.
On November 21, 2020 the CDC increased the Risk Assessment Level for COVID-19 for the entire United States from Level 3 (high) to Level 4 (very high), explaining that travelers should avoid all travel to these destinations.
Also on November 21, 2020 the CDC update a portion of its COVID webpage, which provides that travelers should:
- social distance both indoors and outdoors,
- if there are people in the household who did not travel with you, wear a mask covering both your mouth and nose when you are in shared spaces outside of your home, and
- ask everyone in the household to wear masks in shared spaces inside your home for 14 days after travel;
- wash hands often or use hand sanitizer.
Following travel, the CDC recommends take the everyday actions listed above AND do the following after travel:
- Get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home for 7 days after travel.
- Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 14 days after travel.
Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
In light of the above, Florida employers who want to protect their customers and employees may want to advise employees that if they choose to travel during the holidays, they may need to stay home from work for a period of time. It is important to realize that the time an employee stays at home may not be paid leave, as the FFCRA may not apply.
You should consult an experienced employment lawyer if you have any questions during this important time period.
Holidays 2020 – making employees stay home from work if they travel?