What you need to know about 4th of July travel as COVID-19 cases trend upward

AUSTIN (KXAN) — COVID-19 metrics, including hospitalizations, are starting to trend upward again in Austin-Travis County. The local health authority attributed the uptick to the BA.4 and BA.5 offshoots of the omicron variant in a Travis County commissioners court meeting Tuesday.

The increase in cases comes as many prepare to travel over the Fourth of July holiday. Health leaders warn against traveling if you’re sick or have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you avoid travel if:

  • You have COVID-19 symptoms
  • You tested positive for COVID-19 and are within a 10-day window of first experiencing symptoms or getting the positive test result
  • You are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test
  • You had close contact with someone who has COVID-19. The CDC recommends waiting 10 days after exposure to travel but also said people might test negative five days after exposure and wear a mask for the remainder of that 10-day period

You can find all of the CDC’s travel recommendations here.

Traveling domestically

National data from the CDC shows COVID-19 hospitalizations are going up nationwide. Case numbers are also trending upwards, though health leaders have noted because of the prominence of at-home tests, those case numbers are underreported.

A number of counties in states along the West Coast, including in California, are in the CDC’s high-risk category. So is much of Florida, the western border of Louisiana and the Gulf coast-side of Texas. Those risk levels are based on a weekly average of new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 people, percent of inpatient hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and new COVID-19 admissions to hospitals per 100,000 people.

COVID-19 community levels in US by county (Courtesy CDC)

You can find the community levels for the county you’re traveling to using this CDC tool.

International travel

Just a few weeks ago, the CDC lifted its reentry requirements, meaning you no longer need to provide a negative COVID-19 test to get back into the country. Non-U.S. citizens that intend to simply visit the United States are still required to show proof of vaccination.

The CDC has listed many countries in the high-risk category, meaning they recommend being up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations before traveling. Those countries include France, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Italy. You can find the full list here.

There are no countries listed in the “do not travel” category as of Thursday.

Staying local

Austin Public Health is recommending indoor masking and staying home if you’re experiencing any symptoms, including what may feel like “just allergies.”

“We’re seeing concerning trends with our disease indicators which is especially worrisome as we head into a holiday weekend,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority. “The new omicron sublineages BA.4 and BA.5 are overtaking BA2.12 and are causing reinfections that are more likely to cause lung problems in at-risk people and may lead to hospitalization and the need for ICU care. People of all ages and risk levels will be gathering and should be mindful of each other.”

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