Michelle Fishman calls it “the worst case scenario you don’t really think through.”
After a three-week vacation in Greece, a 52-year-old Miami-based hospitality arts consultant and her husband passed pre-departure coronavirus tests needed to fly home from overseas. She tested positive, he didn’t.
While coronavirus travel restrictions have been eased in many parts of the world, the United States still requires all international air passengers to present a negative test taken within one day of departure. And according to guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ms. Fishman was supposed to self-isolate and postpone her trip for 10 days, but she said she needed to get home earlier to conduct the wedding.
Instead, she took advantage of a quirk of the rules to return home after five days (a mandatory period of self-isolation required by the Greek government) via a “back door” — crossing the United States by land, which does not require the coronavirus. testing, not by air. Because Canada does not require an entry test, the couple first flew to Toronto, and after spending the night there, Ms. Fishman and her husband crossed the border into Buffalo and boarded a flight home. (There is no testing requirement for domestic flights.)
“I didn’t have any symptoms, no fever, nothing. I felt fine and the CDC says that when you are in the US you can end isolation five days after you test positive, so the same rules should apply when I travel,” Ms Fishman said. “It makes no sense that I can go to a wedding five days after I tested positive in Miami, but if I catch the virus while I’m on vacation, I won’t be able to fly home. It must be illegal.”
It’s unclear how many infected people use detours to get home, which could also include flying to Mexico and using an overhead crossing there, because airlines don’t require passengers to provide reasons for canceling or changing flights. But strong anecdotal evidence indicates that some travelers and travel consultants are sharing tips on how to avoid getting stuck.
Flying to Toronto, Ms Fishman said she was following directions from a family friend who used a similar black route to return home to Boston when he tested positive in France in April.
Asked if she was concerned about infecting other passengers on her long journey home from Greece (she tested positive again on the fifth day), Ms Fishman pointed to CDC guidance for people who contract the virus in the United States, which says, that asymptomatic people or those whose symptoms resolved during the five-day isolation period can leave their homes. The CDC said the recommendation is based on scientific evidence that most transmission of the coronavirus occurs in the early stages of the disease.
“I slept in the same bed with my husband for five nights and he didn’t get infected, so I don’t think I was contagious by the time I flew home,” Ms Fishman said. “I wore a mask…