What to Do If You Test Positive for COVID While Traveling Internationally
by Cassie Sclafani, on February 10, 2021
It’s now a federal mandate that international travelers must test negative for COVID-19 72-hours (or less) before being allowed back into the U.S. As such, a positive test result could mean you get stuck for extra days or weeks in another country under quarantine. This new rule is understandably causing some stress and confusion, but there are a few things you can keep in mind so that you’ll be prepared just in case this happens while you’re traveling abroad for work.
Consider Travel Insurance
Before the pandemic, most of you probably didn't give travel insurance much thought. If anything, it’s likely that you made sure you had your domestic health insurance card with you before boarding a flight and called it a day. But it seems like 2021 is the year you should reconsider travel insurance. If you do have to self-quarantine for 14 days in another country, there are third-party insurance carriers that can cover the costs of additional accommodations and testing, along with many other trip disruption costs.
Your company might already have travel insurance - we recommend verifying internally. If not, consult with a travel insurance provider about the best policy to cover these potential costs. Costs for these plans vary depending on the age of the travelers, the destination and the policy inclusions. For more information, reach out to a member of our team.
Know the Contact Details of the American Embassy
Even though the State Department doesn’t have medical resources abroad, many embassies will offer basic assistance, like a directory of places you can acquire a test. Just navigate to the country you’ll be visiting, go to the embassy site and look for “emergency assistance for U.S. citizens” or “COVID-19 information” so that you can have this information before you go. There’s usually a phone number to call and most countries have after-hours service as well.
Understand the Different Kinds of COVID Tests
Rapid antigen tests can be considered controversial as they sometimes do offer false negatives in asymptomatic patients. Still, because the U.S. now requires a test to happen within 72-hours of your flight, rapid tests are accepted. This is good news because these tests are often easier to find.
Rapid tests can also turn up false positives (around 5%), and unfortunately if this happens you’ll still have to quarantine. So if you do suspect a false positive in a rapid test (when you have no symptoms), you should secure a PCR test as quickly as you can.
Explore Hotels Offering Quarantine Discounts
Some hotel properties are offering free or discounted quarantine stays for guests that test positive. Of course, the properties who offer these types of promotions will require COVID-positive guests to isolate strictly in their rooms.
While these "free” stays are the exception rather than the rule, some of the larger American hotel chains do offer COVID-19 testing for guests for a fee. We recommend doing some research on these properties ahead of time.
Know Your Options for Health Care
While the majority of people who test positive for COVID-19 don’t require hospitalization, it’s not uncommon for them to go see a doctor or pharmacist. You’ll want to know where the nearest clinic or pharmacy is. Again, larger hotel chains may have a doctor on staff, or may be able to direct you to a reputable clinic. In addition, your travel insurance may offer medical treatment as an inclusion.
The possibility of getting stuck overseas with an illness like COVID-19 is an unpleasant reality right now, but keeping simple personal safety measures in place like washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, and masking up can mitigate the risk. There are also countries exempt from the rule if acquiring a test is difficult.
Arming yourself with as much information as possible will go a long way to making this situation manageable. As always, our team is ready to help at any time - feel free to reach out!