As the United States hit another milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic Monday, with more than 30 million COVID-19 cases, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reiterated during a White House COVID-19 briefing that Americans should limit travel.
Travel, she explained, only exacerbates the spread of COVID-19.
“What we’re seeing now is more travel than we saw – than we saw throughout the pandemic, including the Christmas and New Year’s holidays,” she said. “I think people have taken advantage of what they perceived as a relative paucity of cases, a relative lull in where we were, to take advantage of their time of spring break, of holiday travel.”
She added that the country has seen a COVID case surge following every holiday since the pandemic’s onset. “I would just sort of reiterate the recommendations from CDC, saying please limit travel to essential travel for the time being.”
Walensky said during the briefing that daily cases are up more than 10% compared to a week ago.
“Our recommendations have been very consistent with travel,” Walensky said, reiterating recommendations for testing, quarantining and symptom monitoring. “We have been consistently discouraging travel, saying, ‘Please keep it limited to only essential travel.'”
In spite of the CDC’s continued rhetoric, travel is on the rise and has been, especially during the popular spring break period.
“We have seen an uptick in travel,” Walensky said. “Much more travel is happening.”
U.S. airport passenger counts have topped 1 million a day for most days in March, according to Transportation Security Administration screening statistics. Passenger screenings, which topped 2 million a day before the pandemic, fell below 90,000 in April and did not top 1 million again until mid-October.
Walensky added that she thinks people “want to be done with this” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We actually have it in our power to be done with the scale of the vaccination,” she continued. “And that will be so much slower if we have another surge to deal with, as well.”
CDC advises against travel for vaccinated people, too
The CDC has maintained its advice not to travel throughout the pandemic. That recommendation extends to people who have been vaccinated, the agency said earlier this month.
“Because of the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 during travel, fully vaccinated people should still take all CDC-recommended precautions before, during, and after travel,” read a CDC statement provided to USA TODAY by spokesperson Caitlin Shockey.
“While we work to vaccinate more people, prevention measures such as pre- and post-travel testing and post-travel self-quarantine, along with wearing well-fitted masks, will help us prevent spread of COVID-19,” the CDC said.
Though the restrictions remain at this time, the CDC said, it may update travel recommendations for fully vaccinated people as that number rises and as it learns more about how vaccines are working in the “real world.”
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson