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When Can I Travel After Testing Positive for COVID-19?

With preflight COVID-19 tests required to visit many destinations (and to return to the United States), there’s a chance you could get a positive result before your next flight. If that happens, the first question on your mind will be, “When can I travel after testing positive for COVID?”

The answer will depend on three things: the country you’re currently in, your destination country, and the airline you’re flying.

When Can You Fly Back to the United States After Testing Positive for COVID?

Two positive COVID tests on top of a blue medical face mask
Jiri Hera | Adobe Stock

If you’re flying back to the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells people who have tested positive for COVID, “Do not travel until a full 10 days after your symptoms started or the date your positive test was taken if you had no symptoms.”

Although the CDC changed the recommended isolation period from 10 days to five days, the agency still advises people not to travel for 10 days after testing positive/symptoms starting.

Jasmine Reed, a spokesperson for the CDC, explains “The travel guidance considers the higher risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 associated with travel. Travel is a door-to-door experience that results in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods in crowded confined spaces.”

Fortunately, after you’ve tested positive you will not need a negative COVID test to reenter the U.S. You can instead travel with a letter of recovery from your doctor, along with proof of a positive test taken within 90 days. 

According to the CDC, you can use a letter of recovery only if “you have met the criteria to travel” which includes completing a 10-day quarantine. 

Check With Your Airline

The most important COVID requirement to check before you fly is with your airline. Airlines have different rules regarding how soon passengers will be allowed to fly after testing positive for COVID. Certain international airlines insist on a longer delay of up to 14 days, whereas others allow for a shorter quarantine. Look for a written policy on your airline’s website, or call to clarify before rebooking your ticket.

When Can You Fly Internationally After Testing Positive for COVID?

Group of masked people waiting in line at the airport to have their temperature taken
AnnaStills | Adobe Stock

This depends on your destination. Some countries accept a proof of recovery and a positive COVID test (similar to the United States), whereas others will only accept a negative test. Check with the State Department’s website for the country you’re visiting for the most up-to-date information. 

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