If you’re making plans to take a missions trip overseas anytime soon, Scotty Goldman says you might want to seriously consider if it’s wise in light of recent travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In mid-January, the CDC director signed an order prohibiting anyone from reentering the U.S. without proof of a negative COVID test or proof they have recently recovered from the virus before returning.
Valid negative test
To provide a valid negative test, the test must have been done within three days of return travel to the U.S. To provide proof of recent recovery from COVID-19, you must have two things:
- proof that you recently tested positive
- a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating you have recovered and are cleared to travel.
The restrictions include travelers who have been vaccinated or have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, according to the CDC website.
The regulation went into effect Jan. 26 for any traveler age 2 or older, and it means that even if you are able to leave the U.S. and enter another country, getting back to the U.S. could be tough, said Goldman, director of the office of global missions for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
“I’m getting four or five calls a week from people who are making plans to travel, and none of them know about this restriction,” he said.
Many of the places they’re considering going could be places where it is difficult to find a reliable COVID-19 test, especially for a whole group, Goldman said. And even if you’re in a city where it seems more possible, figuring out how to arrange that for a group could be difficult.
Chances are high that some or all of your group could get stuck there for a length of time, he said.
“Also, if you had to come back through a gateway city like Paris to get tested after your trip to Africa, that would add days to your timeline in addition to being hard to organize,” he said.
It “complicates travel desperately,” Goldman said, and he wants people to have all the information in hand before they make plans.
If you do decide on a plan to move forward with travel, he recommends travel insurance. (The SBOM uses Patriot Travel for their travel insurance. More information is available at a18c.org/resources/patriot.)
But he notes another consideration. While travel insurance may cover hospitalization costs for COVID-19 just as it does for other illnesses, it may not include costs incurred by a positive test which does not require hospitalization — such as the costs of medicine or expenses related to being quarantined for extra days in another country.
“Travelers need to check with their travel insurance policies to see what’s covered and what’s not,” Goldman said.
Because of current travel complications, Goldman said the SBOM is not coordinating any trips in the first half of 2021. Some opportunities may open up for August or the fall if travel conditions change.
“Until we get to where we can get in and out of the country easily, we’re going to continue to do things virtually and take care of missionaries who are here,” he said.
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