New US COVID-19 Testing Requirements: Your Questions Answered
On January 26, 2021, the US finally set fairly flexible testing requirements for travelers returning to the US. All you had to do was take an antigen or PCR test within 3 days of departure to the US. Almost a year later with a few more variants on the rise, the US has taken another, more stricter stance against returning to the US. So what’s changed and what do you need to know? Read on to find out.
1. What is changing?
All US-bound travelers, regardless of vaccination, are not required to take an antigen or PCR test within 1 calendar day of departure. All travelers over the age of 2 must comply with this new rule. Vaccinated travelers until this week were able to take a test within 3 days. Shortening the window to 1 day significantly impacts your flexibility on when you can take that test.
2. What tests can I take?
The types of tests you can take has not changed. The US requires a viral antigen test or a PCR test. In layman’s terms, if they stick it up your nose, it likely counts. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but just remember that a blood test or breathalyzer will not count. RT-PCR, NAAT and viral antigen tests are all accepted. You can review the requirements on the CDC website, here.
Note that you can also take at-home proctored tests that do qualify for this requirement. We purchased a 6-pack of tests on emed.com that do qualify for travel. They offer 1-2 day shipping, however, we are on day 3 of waiting for it to arrive so be sure to place your order early if you want it to get there before you travel.
3. When should I get my test?
While many countries require testing within a certain number of hours, for example 48 hours from your departure time, the US has specifically used “days”. The new 1-day requirement means that even if your flight is at 5pm on Saturday, you can get your test done at 10am on Friday. The test must be done within 1 calendar day, rather than a certain number of hours. This should give you some more wiggle room to ensure you get your test results on time.
4. Where can I get a test?
Depending on where you are traveling to, you will have a number of options. In the Dominican Republic, for example, hotels are offering free antigen testing at most hotels, as long as you meet their minimum stay requirements (typically 2-3 nights). They will either come to your room or offer an onsite clinic at the hotel and all you need is your passport.
If you are booking and Airbnb or VRBO, it’s very likely that your host can recommend a clinic or location to get your testing done. There are often private clinics that offer testing for a charge, like our experience in the Dominican Republic. Be sure to get in touch with your host to confirm the best options.
Many countries or destinations, like Mykonos, even offer private doctors that come to you directly. This is typically the most expensive option, but an amazing one if you don’t want to wait in lines or deal with crowds. For a price, they will typically turn around your results same day or within 24 hours.
5. What happens if I test positive?
Depending on where you are, you will either need to quarantine in a government facility or extend your stay at your hotel or villa. It’s critical to have a backup plan for any travel today to ensure you are not surprised if this happens. It is absolutely critical to have a plan in place should the worst happen. Many hotels, like the Hilton La Romana, offer a $30 insurance plan to guests. If the guest tests positive, their stay is free, assuming they paid the $30. Choosing hotels like the Hilton La Romana is a great way to ensure you have a backup plan.
In conclusion, it’s really critical to have a plan A, B, C and D. If you know the rules and regulations, you will be in the best position to have a stress-free travel day. Our biggest pro-tip is making sure you screenshot your test results on your phone or carry a print out to easily cruise through check in and get home.