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Official Travel

Federal employees should adhere strictly to CDC guidance for domestic and international travel before, during, and after official travel.

UpdatedQ: Are there any restrictions on official travel approved by Federal agencies?

A: No. There are no Government-wide limits on official travel (i.e., travel conducted under an official travel authorization) for Federal employees, regardless of their vaccination status. Individuals should follow their agency’s travel policy.

In approving official travel for an individual, agencies should:

  • Inform the traveling individual that CDC recommends that individuals make sure they are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines before travel;
  • Recommend that the traveling individual consider being tested for current infection with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) before travel;
  • Instruct the traveling individual to adhere strictly to CDC guidance for domestic and international travel before, during, and after official travel;
  • Instruct the traveling individual to check their destination’s COVID-19 Community Level before traveling, and to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) while on-duty and around others indoors at their destination, if the COVID-19 Community Level in the county where their destination is located is HIGH;
  • Instruct the traveling individual to make sure they understand and follow all travel restrictions put in place by State, Tribal, local, and territorial governments; and
  • Advise the traveling individual to prepare to be flexible during their travel, as restrictions, policies, and circumstances may change during their travel.

Heads of agencies should issue specific travel guidance as needed to account for the specific requirements of their agency’s mission.

Q: Should Federal agencies recommend or require employees to complete CDC-recommended COVID-19 testing before and after official travel? Can the expenses associated with this testing be claimed on a travel voucher for employee reimbursement?

A: When CDC recommends that travelers consider COVID-19 testing for current SARS-CoV-2 infection with a viral test prior to or following travel, agencies should recommend to employees traveling on official business that they consider being tested consistent with such CDC guidance. When CDC otherwise recommends or requires COVID-19 testing prior to or following travel, agencies must require employees traveling on official business be tested consistent with such CDC guidance, pursuant to Executive Order 13991. Agencies should provide for any recommended testing and must provide for any required testing associated with official travel at no cost to the employee, such as through the agency’s screening testing program, the agency’s in-house capabilities for diagnostic testing at the worksite, or through an alternative process determined by the agency. The cost of such testing recommended or required for official travel, and not available through a Federal dispensary or not covered (or reimbursable) through travel insurance, can be claimed in a travel voucher as a Miscellaneous Expense under agency travel policies.

UpdatedQ: Should agencies limit official travel for individuals who have had a known close contact with someone with COVID-19?

A: No. For asymptomatic individuals who have had a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 within the past 10 days, agencies may approve official travel, consistent with the agency’s travel policy. If the individual remains without COVID-19 symptoms before traveling, then pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, the agency must instruct the individual to, in addition to other standard pre-travel instructions related to COVID-19:

  • Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) the entire time they are on-duty and around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the 10 full days after their last known exposure;
  • Not travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses, and trains if they will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others indoors for the full duration of their travel within the 10 full days after their last known exposure; and
  • Follow other aspects of post-exposure protocols, including the requirement for individuals with a known exposure to be tested for COVID-19 after 5 full days following their last known exposure (ideally, on or after day 6)—note that this testing may need to occur while the individual is traveling, and that agencies do not need to require that employees wait for the results of this post-exposure diagnostic test to undertake official travel, including return travel.

If the individual develops COVID-19 symptoms after official travel has been approved, then pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, the agency must instruct the individual to not undertake further official travel, including under that previously approved travel authorization, and to instead follow agency protocols consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance on travel for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.

UpdatedQ: What should agencies do regarding official travel for individuals who develop COVID-19 symptoms or have a positive viral test 10 full days or less prior to their intended departure date?

A: Pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, agencies must not approve official travel (i.e., travel conducted under an official travel authorization) for individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for an initial diagnostic viral test result, and agencies must not approve official travel for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 for at least 5 full days after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of the initial positive diagnostic viral test for asymptomatic individuals.

If an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 has returned to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities (once they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms are improving), then the agency may approve official travel for the individual.

Pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance on isolation, the agency must instruct the individual to, in addition to other standard pre-travel instructions related to COVID-19:

  • Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) the entire time they are on-duty and around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator after ending isolation, consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance;
  • Not travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses, and trains if they will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator after ending isolation, consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance; and
  • Follow other aspects of post-isolation protocols.

If after official travel has been approved, the individual’s COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, then pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance on isolation, agencies must instruct the individual to not undertake further official travel, including under any previously approved travel authorization, and to again not enter a Federal facility or interact with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities, restarting at day 0 of isolation protocols.

UpdatedQ: What should agencies do if an employee has probable or confirmed COVID-19 while on official travel?

A: If an employee has probable or confirmed COVID-19 while on official travel (i.e., travel conducted under an official travel authorization), then pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, agencies must instruct the individual to follow agency isolation protocols and not undertake further official travel, including return travel, for at least 5 full days after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of the initial positive diagnostic viral test for asymptomatic individuals. The agency must cover all costs associated with travel and lodging expenses, as well as the cost of any diagnostic testing, in these circumstances, to the extent permitted by the Federal Travel Regulation.

After that point, once the individual is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms are improving, then the agency may instruct the individual that they can proceed with undertaking further travel, including return travel. Pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance on isolation, the agency must then instruct the individual to, in addition to other standard pre-travel instructions related to COVID-19:

  • Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) the entire time they are on-duty and around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator after ending isolation, consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance;
  • Not travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses, and trains if they will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator after ending isolation, consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance; and
  • Follow other aspects of post-isolation protocols.

If at any point prior to their return travel the individual’s COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, agencies must instruct the individual to not undertake further official travel, including return travel, and to not enter a Federal facility or interact with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities, restarting at day 0 of isolation protocols, consistent with Executive Order 13991 and CDC recommendations on isolation and the protocols set forth by their agency.

The agency must cover all costs associated with travel and lodging expenses, as well as the cost of any diagnostic testing, in these circumstances, to the extent permitted by the Federal Travel Regulation.