Limits on official travel for federal employees remain in place, even if vaccinated

As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to ramp up across the country, the Biden administration will continue to discourage official travel for the federal workforce.

Business travel for federal employees is still limited to mission critical trips, even if they’re fully vaccinated. And the administration is still discouraging international travel if at all possible, according to new guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, which posted Friday.

Exceptions include military deployments, COVID-19 response missions and diplomatic activities that can’t be done remotely.

The latest directions comply with updates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made recently to its own travel guidance for vaccinated people. 

Fully vaccinated federal employees do not need to quarantine or get tested before or after domestic travel, unless the destination requires it.

According to the CDC, individuals are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after getting a single dose shot, like the vaccine from Johnson and Johnson.

Fully vaccinated employees don’t need to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 before leaving the United States for international travel. But when returning from an international destination, federal employees are still required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before their flight leaves or present documentation of their recovery from the virus before boarding a flight back to the U.S.

Vaccinated employees must continue to wear masks while traveling, the task force added.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, led by the Office of Personnel Management, General Services Administration and White House COVID-19 response team, is the product of President Joe Biden’s mask mandate executive order, which he issued on his first day in office.

The task force is designed to guide agency leaders on ways to keep their employees safe and agencies operating during the pandemic.

It also released a new testing plan for federal employees earlier this week, which includes strategies for agencies to consider and incorporate into their own COVID-19 safety guides.

“Although testing has benefits for early identification and controlling outbreaks, it should be an integrated component of the comprehensive workplace program and not used as a substitute for other measures, such as COVID-19 vaccination, proper ventilation, temperature and symptom screening, physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection,” the plan reads.

According to the new federal plan, agencies should refer any employee who shows symptoms of COVID-19 for diagnostic testing.

Agencies should provide a test to employees who came in close contact with a COVID-positive coworker at work or outside of the office.

They can consider providing a test to employees who may have been in close contact with a COVID-positive coworker at work, according to the task force.

Agencies could also consider basic screening measures. Workplaces where employees are in close contact with members of the public or where social distancing is difficult make good candidates for screening programs, the task force said.

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