Help! What Will I Need to Show, and Where?08/19/2021
Dear Tripped Up,
I am writing with a simple question: What is an acceptable proof of vaccination for U.S. travelers? I have the C.D.C. card, but that’s just a piece of paper that anybody can easily recreate, and its authenticity cannot be verified in the same way as a passport or driver’s license. What if I am given this argument at the airport check-in counter? George
The physical C.D.C. card is precisely what you’ll need to travel anywhere that requires proof of vaccination. The much-publicized reports of counterfeiting are daunting to read about, but those are in the ultra-slim minority. If your card is real, you’ll be fine at the airport.
Because it’s likely you’ll be asked to show other virus-related documents and attestations while traveling, it’s important to stay on top of countries’ individual requirements. On a recent trip to France, Mari Hawkins, the president of the travel agency Gemini Travel based in Mount Kisco, N.Y., was asked to show her C.D.C. card at the Delta Air Lines check-in desk at Kennedy International Airport and again upon landing. She was also given general Covid-19 attestation forms to fill out on the inbound and outbound flights, though the one she filled out while heading to France, she said, was never collected.
Although the United States does not have a universal, countrywide digital health pass that stands in for the physical card, there are ongoing efforts by states and private businesses to ease the vaccination-verification process through digital means. United Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways and others have all rolled out varying technologies that allow passengers to upload proof of vaccination before a flight. In July, Clear, the biometrics company, began a digital initiative that allows Hawaii-bound tourists to upload their vaccination records directly into the Clear app, facilitating entry into the state and allowing them to bypass the 10-day quarantine. Two apps in New York — the statewide Excelsior Pass and NYC Covid Safe — prove vaccination status and ease entry into restaurants, gyms and other indoor settings.
Dear Tripped Up,
We’re both fully vaccinated and hoping to go to Florence later this month. But Italy has just announced that a nationwide “green pass” is now required to enter museums, restaurants and other indoor venues. For Europeans with the E.U. digital Covid certificate, this should be no sweat. But for Americans, will C.D.C. cards suffice? If not, how do we get a substitute? If we can’t go into museums or restaurants, there is little point in going. Ann
In recent weeks, Italy and France have announced separate, yet similar, green pass requirements for indoor venues. The initiatives have sparked major protests across France but have been generally accepted in Italy.
They have also left those who work on the ground in travel and tourism perplexed, if not outright concerned about exactly the issue you raised: If vaccinated Americans can fly to these countries but can’t actually go inside venues once they’re there, will they bother going at all?
The situation in Italy is straightforward: According to recent ordinances issued by the Italian Ministry of Health, Americans can simply show their C.D.C. cards — no “conversion” to a “green pass” needed (nor possible). Unvaccinated Americans (or those without their C.D.C. cards) will have to present a virus test within 48 hours of entering an indoor venue.
Fundamentally, said Candice Criscione, who shares tips for planning family vacations in Italy on her blog the Tuscan Mom, “this is Italy’s message to Americans and other tourists: Get vaccinated before coming to visit. It’s too complicated and expensive to have to get an official Covid test every time you want to enter a museum or eat at a restaurant, and your vacation options will be extremely limited.”
Things have been a bit more complicated for tourists in France, which since July 21 has required a health pass to access public venues, including museums, with more than 50 people. In late July, one Times reader reported that he was turned away from a museum: “They will not accept my paper record,” he wrote.
Others have had no issues entering museums with C.D.C. cards. In an email, a spokeswoman for the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, two major museums in Paris, said American vaccination cards would be accepted at both institutions.
“I get that it’s confusing,” said Meg Zimbeck, the founder of Paris by Mouth, which ran 1,000 food tours a year before the pandemic, and who has been monitoring the issue closely. “But what I’m emphasizing to everyone is that your C.D.C. card is probably fine. I’ve heard about one person in a hundred being turned away. And that’s because of an individual employee as gatekeeper.”
There have also been diverse anecdotes about French pharmacies’ ability to convert C.D.C. cards into scannable French QR codes. That process took Mallory Shaw, a luxury travel adviser and the owner of the Virtuoso-affiliated Trouvaille Yacht & Travel, around 10 minutes when she popped into a pharmacy between the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.
Jodi Kennedy Gaffey, whose company the Epicurean Concierge organizes bespoke tours and experiences throughout France, had no issues using her C.D.C. card to gain entry into museums in Paris But she had zero luck when she tried to convert it into a French health pass at two different pharmacies in Provence in early August.
Unlike in the United States, there are no chain pharmacies in France. All are independently owned, and they have not been uniformly converting C.D.C. cards into French health passes. This has left tourists in trial-and-error mode — to varying success, as revealed by the firsthand anecdotes that Ms. Zimbeck has been collecting and publishing on the Paris By Mouth website.
“We’ve been seeing some ad hoc solutions where some pharmacies in touristy neighborhoods will say, ‘Sure, I’ll do it for 20 bucks,’” she said. “But it’s not an official thing. That’s why I’ve been telling people, ‘Look, if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t spend an hour and a half trying to convert anything.’”
Last week, France started requiring the health pass for smaller indoor venues, including restaurants. And although the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has also instituted an official application process by which non-E.U. citizens who were vaccinated abroad can obtain the French pass (including a QR code linking to their vaccination status), for now the system will handle applications for foreigners already in France and will be made available to future arrivals on a rolling basis. There’s also little insight into how long processing time will take.
That’s why even visitors who apply for the health pass through official channels should also carry their C.D.C. cards.
“The bottom line is that France depends heavily on tourism and, as we all know, last year was horrific,” said Ms. Gaffey. “I have to think that restaurants and cafes will work with customers. It’s not in their best interest to turn people away who appear to be vaccinated.”
Be sure to have the physical card — not a photocopy or digital version — and a passport.
“Word is out that the C.D.C. paper card is OK, but it’s also about meeting the restaurant owner halfway: realizing they’re taking an order at the table next door, they’re trying to deliver a plate of food, they’re trying to take a check,” said Ms. Zimbeck. “So don’t make it hard on them by bringing a blurry Xerox.”
Sarah Firshein is a New York-based writer. If you need advice about a best-laid travel plan that went awry, send an email to [email protected].
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