MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Starting next week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require anyone flying into the United States to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding an international flight.

But what about spring break and beyond?

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With the promise of the vaccine, and the 2020 we all had, you may be considering a spring break escape. Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s virus task force, says that’s when we could see a wave of infections from the variant that recently arrived in Minnesota from the United Kingdom.

“That time period normally associated with spring breaks could be one of the worst risk time periods for the transmission of this virus,” Osterholm said. “Even with vaccine entering our communities, there is just not enough vaccine will have been available to really change the course of that.”

So what about those out-of-town summer weddings on the calendar?
Will it be safe to fly by then?

“There’s so much up in the air right now,” Osterholm said. “I don’t know what the next six months are going to look like, but it sure doesn’t feel good at all.”

Dr. Osterholm says if enough people choose to get vaccinated, and the rollout goes quick, we could have a better chance this summer.

If you do decide to travel and haven’t been on a plane in a while, things have changed. Thrifty Traveler CEO Jared Kamrowski says Delta is the only domestic carrier still blocking out middle seats, and testing requirements are across the board.

(credit: CBS)

“The airlines have had to completely rework their networks,” Kamrowski said. “It really depends on where you’re gonna go in the U.S., and things are shifting all the time.”

Routes are also different, and there are fewer direct flights. At MSP Airport, there are 61 suspended routes — 43 domestic and 18 international — based on pre-pandemic levels. Roughly 300 flights will take off from MSP every day in January, down from nearly 470 a year ago. The airport is currently seeing 299 average daily departures, which compares to 469 in January of 2020.

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“I think, you know, we’re not going to see significant movement on travel until at least summer or fall,” Kamrowski said.

Airlines are modifying schedules weekly, temporarily suspending or adding flights based on demand. But with testing and quarantining protocols in flux, Kamrowski recommends staying in the U.S.

“Let’s say you do test positive for COVID, you would be stuck in Mexico for a week or two weeks,” he said. “Would the hotels put you up? Would the government? No one has a plan.”

We dared to ask about the timeline for safe international travel.

“The rest of the world is not going to have access to vaccine for many, many months, if not years,” Osterholm said.

But when it does happen, many are talking about immunity passports.

“I do think that at some point things will transition from requirement for COVID testing to more where you have a vaccine card,” Kamrowski said.

But first, experts like Osterholm need to understand what immunity truly looks like.

“Until we get that answered, I think it’s going to be a real challenge to offer anyone a statement, a document, anything that would say you’re now immune,” Osterholm said.

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Kamrowski says most airlines issue vouchers if you can’t use your ticket for one reason or another.

Erin Hassanzadeh