Division Title
Safety

​General Travel Guidance

General Travel Recommendations


Travel risk can occur during domestic, international, or cruise ship travel. It can even occur during travel near where you live depending on local hotspots, attendance at events where public health measures are not followed, or through personal behaviors not in line with public health recommendations. It is important to remember that behaviors outside of the workplace affect our risk inside the workplace.


Travel continues to be associated with increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 --- even for travelers who are Up to Date on their COVID - 19 vaccinations --- due to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant. The CDC recommends delaying domestic, international, or cruise ship travel until you are up to date on your COVID – 19 vaccinations. Whenever you are travelling, or you are gathering with people outside your household or pod, it's prudent to check for changes in CDC guidance. The NIH recommends use of the CDC Travel Guidance to inform risk mitigation for personal travel and requires it to be used for risk mitigation for Official Government Travel (OGT) --- including pre and post travel COVID – 19 testing, quarantine, and isolation recommendations. Links to the CDC Travel Guidance are provided below:


CDC Domestic Travel Guidelines

Very Important! If you are not Up to Date on your COVID – 19 vaccinations, the CDC recommends staying home and self-quarantining for a full 5 days after travel. A viral test is recommended no more than 3 days prior to travel and 3-5 days after returning from travel unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.


CDC International Travel Guidelines for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Immigrants

Very Important! You must have a negative COVID test within 1 day prior to boarding your return flight to the U.S. or a copy of a positive test result obtained within the past 90 days and a signed letter from your treating healthcare provider or public health official stating that you are cleared for travel according to the CDC's travel guidance.


Very Important! If you are not Up to Date on your COVID – 19 vaccinations, the CDC recommends staying home and self-quarantining for a full 5 days after travel. A viral test is recommended no more than 3 days prior to travel and 3-5 days after returning from travel unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.


CDC International Travel Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens and Non-U.S. Immigrants

Very Important! If you are not Fully Vaccinated with a primary COVID - 19 vaccination series that is approved or authorized by the FDA or WHO, you will not be allowed to board a flight to the U.S. unless you qualify for one of the exceptions below:

  • Persons on diplomatic or official foreign government travel
  • Children under 18 years of age
  • Persons with documented medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials
  • Persons issued a humanitarian or emergency exemption
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age)
  • Sea crew members traveling with a C-1 and D nonimmigrant visa
  • Persons with valid visas (excluding B-1 [business] or B-2 [tourism] visas) who are citizens of a country with limited COVID-19 availability
  • Persons whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, Secretary of Transportation, or Secretary of Homeland Security (or their designees)
Very Important! You must have a negative COVID test within 1 day prior to boarding your return flight to the U.S. or a copy of a positive test result obtained within the past 90 days and a signed letter from your treating healthcare provider or public health official stating that you are cleared for travel according to the CDC's travel guidance.

Very Important! If you are not Up to Date on your COVID – 19 vaccinations, the CDC recommends staying home and self-quarantining for a full 7 days after travel. A viral test is recommended no more than 3 days prior to travel and 3-5 days after returning from travel unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.


CDC Cruise Ship Guidance

Very Important! If your cruise includes air travel outside of the U.S. or international cruise destinations outside of U.S. waters, you will be subject to the applicable CDC Guidelines for re-entry of International travelers to the U.S.

Very Important! If you are not Up to Date on your COVID – 19 vaccinations, the CDC recommends staying home and self-quarantining for a full 5 days after travel. A viral test is recommended no more than 3 days prior to travel and 3-5 days after returning from travel unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. You will also be tested by cruise ship personnel on embarkation day prior to boarding.

Best Practices for all Travelers


Utilizing best practices helps to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Determining when it is safe for you to return to NIH facilities depends on the level of risk of exposure within two weeks of your coming to campus, presence of symptoms, and whether you are Up to Date on vaccinations, including appropriate boosters. See “Instructions for Official Government Travel" below for more details.


Travel destination, or the location of origin of visitors, is a factor to consider when evaluating risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. The NIH uses the  CDC COVID - 19 Community Levels webpage for domestic travel and the CDC COVID Travel Recommendations by Destination webpage for international travel to evaluate risk and provide recommended mitigation measures. Other websites maintained by state health departments and reputable media outlets are also resources to geographically inform employees of COVID cases. For example, data used to construct metrics indicating hotspots are maintained by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map.

Standard precautions for all travelers:

  • Get Up to Date on vaccination prior to travel if at all possible.
  • Check your destination's COVID-19 situation before traveling using the links listed above. Also be aware that state, tribal, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions and other public health measures in place. Information on those can be found on the website of the local department of health.
  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is recommended in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports). Consider double masking or other options for improving mask fit and filtration found in Appendix I - Mask Fit-Enhancement Techniques if you have an immunocompromising condition or other reason to require an enhanced level of safety.
  • Adhere to physical distancing, facial covering, and hand hygiene as directed by the locality that you are visiting. Those with immunocompromising conditions are encouraged to maintain physical distancing, facial covering, and hand hygiene even if it is not mandated by the locality.
  • Do not travel if you are sick, tested positive for COVID-19 and haven't ended isolation, had close contact with a person with COVID-19 and haven't ended quarantine, or are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test.
  • Understand the risks that you are taking, e.g., activities, destinations, or modes of transportation, and maintain awareness of ill persons in your vicinity.
  • If you suspect that you had potential high-risk exposures while traveling or developed symptoms of COVID – 19, please report them to OMS via the OMS COVID-19 Screening Questionnaire within 24 hours of return. A definition of a high-risk exposure and expectations of personnel that have experienced a high-risk exposure are discussed in the section Requirements for Persons After an Exposure.

Risk factors that may increase travel-associated COVID-19 exposure

  • Travel by public transportation (air, bus, or train).
  • Prolonged presence in public areas (shopping districts, pedestrian zones, narrow walkways, etc.).
  • Crowded settings such as bars, casinos, movie theaters, and gyms and large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events and re-unions or parties with family or friends outside of your household.
  • Travel to a high-risk area, i.e., with ongoing, widespread community transmission, or visitors from such an area coming into your home.


Instructions for Official Government Travel (OGT)

Effective January 31, 2022, restrictions on non-mission critical OGT were lifted for all employees who are Up to Date on vaccinationThose who are not up to date on vaccination are still limited to mission critical OGT based on approval from IC senior management. These limitations will be re-assessed periodically based on COVID-19 case levels.


NIH has adopted the latest CDC guidance on domestic and international travel as the standard risk mitigation strategy for OGT. Please see the links under General Travel Recommendations for details. OMS, in coordination with DOHS, is available to develop tailored risk mitigation strategies for special situations. Please send inquiries to OMSMonitoringProgram@mail.nih.gov or call 301-480-8990 for assistance.


Regardless of vaccination status, you should not initiate OGT travel (without a negative COVID test) or return to work (without clearance by OMS) if you or any of your travel companions:

  • Are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 (even if up to date on vaccinations against COVID-19 or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past).
  • Have suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 (even if you don't have symptoms).
  • Have been around someone with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 in the past 5 days (even if they did not have symptoms).


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Attending Conferences and Large Professional Gatherings on OGT

Personnel on OGT to attend conferences and large professional gatherings (e.g., meetings, training sessions, site visits, etc.) may encounter elevated exposure risk even if the location that they are visiting is considered a low-risk destination by the CDC. These events may be attended by people from a wide geographic area and present an increased chance for exposure.


When considering attendance at a conference or large event (e.g., 50+ people) request the event organizer's COVID-19 plan. A proper and thorough plan will demonstrate that the organizers have considered ways to reduce potential COVID-19 transmission. The plan will discuss vaccination requirements, local jurisdiction requirements, social distancing, facial coverings, ventilation, cleaning, screening, and reporting of COVID-19 cases. The elements covered in this plan should be covered in the event plan. DOHS recommends that you consider not attending conferences or large professional gatherings where vaccination is not mandatory.