Preflight COVID testing starting to become option to avoid doing a 14-day quarantine

Posted at 8:51 AM, Oct 20, 2020

Preflight COVID-19 testing is starting to become an option to avoid doing a 14-day quarantine when you get to your final destination.

Starting November 1, you'll be allowed to travel to Costa Rica from the United States if you get a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of leaving the U.S.

The Bahamas is taking it a step further. Starting November 1, you can travel there if you get a negative PCR test 7 days before your trip. Then, you'll have to get a rapid antigen test when you get there and four-days later.

Hawaii lifted its 14-day quarantine last week for people who have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the flight.

“Having these alternatives to quarantine related to travel creates some confusion about what a test really means in the context of quarantine, so I worry a little bit that we're losing that message that a test is only just a moment in time,” said Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center.

Doron says because of the incubation period for COVID-19, you can have it any time between 2 and 14 days after you're exposed. A negative result is only at the time you took the test.

Recent studies have shown your risk of contracting the coronavirus on your flight is very low if strict mask wearing is followed.

“I think, you know, the bigger issue is an influx of people incubating COVID-19 into an island that may have done a really good job controlling the pandemic and on the flip side really needs that tourist revenue,” said Doron.

She says places like the Bahamas that require multiple tests is more effective.

It could be a challenge to get that test before you leave. Doron says many hospitals stopped doing pre-and-post travel testing because of a lack of supplies.

The turnaround time on getting the test is also an issue. The companies doing mail-in tests are getting results back faster, but it's going to cost you a lot of money.