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.
Instructions for Official Government Travel
Effective June 3, 2022, all NIH personnel, regardless of vaccination status, are eligible for Official Government Travel(OGT). Employees are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated before travel. Non-U.S. Citizens and Non-U.S. Immigrants will be required to show proof of vaccination prior to entering the United States. This will be checked by the airlines and not by the NIH. See the section below on CDC International Travel Guidelines for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Immigrants for additional details on the impact of vaccination status on OGT.
Effective August 26, 2022, personnel who have ended isolation after testing positive with COVID-19, but who still need to continue wearing a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95), may be approved for travel, including return travel. Personnel that have had a high-risk exposure within the prior 10 days may also be approved for travel, but must be tested after 5 full days (ideally on day 6) following exposure.
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.
Personnel on OGT must:
- Adhere strictly to CDC guidance for domestic and international travel before, during, and after travel—including CDC recommendations for wearing masks in travel and public transportation settings.
- Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) the entire time they are around others indoors for the full duration of their travel within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator following a known exposure or after ending isolation, consistent with Task Force guidance.
- Not travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses, and trains if they will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others indoors for the full duration of their travel within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator following a known exposure or after ending isolation, consistent with Task Force guidance.
- Follow other aspects of post-exposure and post-isolation protocols, including the requirement for individuals with a known exposure to be tested for COVID-19 after 5 full days following their known exposure (ideally, on or after day 6)—note that agencies do not need to require that employees wait for the results of this post-exposure diagnostic test to undertake official travel, including return travel.
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).
- If you become Ill with COVID while on OGT please ensure you isolate and reach out to your supervisor and EO for more information.
Quarantine after International OGT.
Requirements to quarantine after OGT have been removed for all personnel. The NIH recommends that personnel consider telework for 5 days after international travel. A viral test is recommended 3-5 days after returning from travel unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Supervisors should consider this when approving international OGT as it may impact onsite operations when personnel return from international OGT.
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Attending Conferences and Large 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 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.
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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 Omicron variants. Links for CDC travel guidance are listed below.
CDC Domestic Travel Guidelines
CDC International Travel Guidelines for U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and Immigrants
CDC International Travel Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens and Non-U.S. Immigrants
CDC Cruise Ship Guidance
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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" above 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.