What to do if you tested positive a day before your flight? (Philippines to United States)

Do you have an incoming flight going outside the Philippines? Are you anxious about your COVID test result? Worry not. Here’s my personal experience.

I tested positive to COVID a day before my flight to the United States – something beyond anyone’s control.

I had 2 questions running in my mind:

When will be the date that I have to rebook my next flight?

What if I get tested positive again the day before my rescheduled flight?

The new travel health protocol when traveling to the United States is to get tested for COVID no more than 1 day before your flight regardless of vaccination status. There are exemptions though which you can refer to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) website. ALWAYS CHECK THE TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS IN THE COUNTRY YOU ARE GOING TO BECAUSE THEY UPDATE THE PROTOCOLS FROM TIME TO TIME.

They accept either RT-PCR or antigen test. RT-PCR is the golden standard for testing. However, it is more expensive and aside from that it usually takes more than 24hours before the results will come out, some offer a faster result but will incur additional cost. An alternative test they accept is the antigen test which is relatively faster (15mins to 2 hrs release of results) and cheaper. MAKE SURE IT IS A VIRAL ANTIGEN TEST AND YOU’VE DONE IT WITH AN ACCREDITED HEALTH CARE PROVIDER. There are booths that do this in NAIA terminal 3.

A day before my flight, I did an antigen test. Results came out and it was POSITIVE. It is definitely stressful but try to calm down and go straight to your house. Isolate yourself from others. The first thing you have to do is report your positive result to your local health unit (can be you barangay health center). It’s much better if you report any symptoms of COVID before your test and start your isolation the soonest possible time. You do not just prevent the disease from spreading, you are also giving yourself a head start in terms of isolation requirements which we will learn later the advantage.

For the first question, when will be the date that I have to rebook my next flight? CDC requires at least 10 days (for asymptomatic to mild cases, refer to CDC website for a more detailed isolation protocols) of isolation from the date you tested positive or the day after you had no fever without using any medication or the start of the first symptoms. If within those 10 days you had fever again, you have to start from day 0 again. Here’s an example: if you tested positive on January 1, that day will be day 0. The start of day 1 will be January 2. Therefore, the end of your 10-day isolation is January 11. You can rebook your next flight on January 12. The reason behind reporting to your local health unit as early as possible is that they start the counting of your isolation days on the day you reported your result or symptoms. They have to monitor you for 10 days before giving you a documentation of recovery. But what is documentation of recovery?

That question is the answer to our next question: what if I get tested positive again the day before my rescheduled flight? Do I have to isolate again? In my personal experience, the answer is NO (this only applies to those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms). According to the CDC website, it is not recommended to get tested again 90 days after you tested positive or recovered from COVID since there is a high possibility that you will still have the virus but you are not contagious anymore. This is where the documentation of recovery will come in. A documentation of recovery is a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official (e.g. licensed doctor) that says that you completed your 10-day isolation and you are being cleared to travel or go back to work/school. It is important that the letter either states that you can travel or go back to work/school. The letter needs to have the information that identifies you personally that matches the details on your passport or other travel documents (e.g. name, date of birth). It has to be signed on official letterhead with the name, address, and contact number of the licensed public health official who signed the letter. This document will be given to you by the local health unit upon completion of your 10-day isolation. You also need to attach the viral positive result you had before your 10-day isolation. If you don’t get any proof/documentation of recovery, you have to have a negative result the day before your rescheduled flight.

On the day of your rescheduled flight make sure to bring all the documents you need. A COVID-negative result no more than 1 day before your flight or proof of recovery, vaccination card, passport, visa and other requirements the country you are going to requires you. Make sure to always wear a mask. Wear it properly (covering the nose and mouth), and at all times especially when you are in an enclosed space and/or with other people.

Let’s be responsible for each other in times of a pandemic like this and follow the health protocols anywhere we go.

Disclaimer: I am not a COVID expert or professional healthcare provider. All the information written here are based on my personal experience and the way I understood the contents in the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) website. For more information you can check their website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/noncitizens-US-air-travel.html.