Fully vaccinated Americans can now travel at low risk of COVID-19 infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today.

People who have had two COVID-19 vaccine doses at least 2 weeks prior can travel within the United States and don’t need to take a coronavirus test before travel or quarantine after, as long as they wear a face covering, avoid crowds, physical distance, wash their hands often, and take extra care around unvaccinated people—particularly those at high risk for severe COVID-19, the guidance said.

Fully vaccinated Americans can also travel internationally without taking a COVID-19 test beforehand, unless their country of destination requires it, and they don’t have to quarantine on their return. However, they still must have a negative coronavirus test result before boarding a flight back to the United States and get tested again 3 to 5 days after their return, according to the CDC.

Today’s guidance, however, does not change the agency’s guidance for those who are not fully vaccinated, still discouraging them from nonessential US travel.

“Unvaccinated travelers should still get tested 1-3 days before domestic travel and again 3-5 days after travel,” CDC said. “They should stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel or 10 days if they don’t get tested at the conclusion of travel.”

Virus infecting more children, teens

As increasing numbers of older adults get vaccinated against COVID-19, the United States faces another surge of infections catalyzed by infections in children and teens.

According to a Mar 25 American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association joint report, 64,029 children across the country were diagnosed as having COVID-19 in the week before the report, representing 19.2% of new weekly cases.

In Michigan, for example, where average daily infections are five times higher than in late February, CBS News cites Michigan Department of Health and Human Services data showing that coronavirus cases in children younger than 10 years are up 230% since Feb 19—more than in any other age-group.

Likewise, infections in 10- to 19-year-olds have climbed 227%, and 40% of recent outbreaks have been tied to the reopening of in-person K-12 schools, youth sports, or group gatherings after games.

In Minnesota, people younger than 20 years represented nearly 25% of all reported coronavirus cases in March, up from less than 15% in late February. And other states, such as Illinois and Massachusetts, are reporting similar patterns, according to CBS.

Cases up 20% as variants spread

The United States recorded 77,718 new COVID-19 cases and 955 deaths yesterday, per the New York Times. This week has seen a 20% increase in new cases from 2 weeks ago, with, on average, 65,574 infections a day.

The nation’s new total is 30,568,672 cases and 553,517 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker.

But the true extent of coronavirus transmission in many southern and Great Plains states may not be known, because testing there has declined amid eased public health restrictions and the prioritizing of vaccination efforts, the New York Times reports. For example, in Kansas, where testing has been declining since Jan 1, only 60 of every 100,000 residents are being tested each day, compared with 1,200 tests per 100,000 in New York and 1,677 in Rhode Island.

Yet the states with low testing rates are finding COVID-19 infections, ranging from 12% of the population in Kansas to 27.3% in Idaho, which may reflect a large number of asymptomatic or mild illnesses that would otherwise go undetected. In comparison, New York’s positivity rate is only 3.5%.

Meanwhile, coronavirus variants continue to be responsible for more COVID-19 infections, with 12,505 B117 cases reported in 51 jurisdictions, 323 B1351 infections in 31 jurisdictions, and 224 P1 cases in 22 jurisdictions, according to the CDC variant tracker.

In Minnesota, B117, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, has become the most prevalent strain, causing up to 65% of new infections, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The state recorded its first daily COVID-19 case count above 2,000 since Jan 10 yesterday. It now ranks 12th among states in infections and 15th in hospitalizations, although it is 36th in deaths.

State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield, MD, said that the state is at a critical point in the pandemic. “I am worried about the spread of B.1.1.7, and I really urge Minnesotans to be patient and to continue to mask and continue to socially distance and continue to roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated,” she said. 

US vaccination totals reached 204,719,335 doses delivered and 157,606,463 administered today, with 57,984,785 Americans fully vaccinated, per the CDC COVID Data Tracker.

Other vaccine news

  • The Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that it has authorized Moderna to include as many as 15 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in each vial rather than 10, which the agency said will increase the number of available doses.
  • Today, Johnson & Johnson announced that it has begun vaccinating children 12 to 17 years in an expansion of an ongoing phase 2a trail of its COVID-19 vaccine, which is assessing immune response and side effects.
  • If and when the AstraZeneca COVID-19 wins US regulatory approval, it may be too late to use in the United States, which now has enough contracts with other vaccine manufacturers to immunize all Americans, with even the possibility of extras to use as booster shots in the fall, chief White House medical advisor Anthony Fauci, MD, told Reuters.
  • Most workers in Florida’s long-term care facilities have refused to receive COVID-19 vaccines, the Tampa Bay Times Only 36% of nursing home workers and 40% of assisted living staff members had received at least one dose of a vaccine by Mar 28.
  • During a visit to a Kentucky hospital yesterday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell encouraged his fellow Republicans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to ABC News. Polls have found that many Republicans are hesitant to get the shot.