The Biden administration is moving to toughen testing requirements for international travelers to the United States, including both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, amid concerns about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday statement that it was working toward requiring that all air travelers to the U.S. be tested for COVID-19 within a day before boarding their flight.
Currently, those who are fully vaccinated may present a test taken within three days of boarding.
“CDC is working to modify the current Global Testing Order for travel as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States,” the agency said.
The precise testing protocols were still being finalized ahead of a speech by President Joe Biden planned for Thursday on the administration’s plans to control the COVID-19 pandemic during the winter season, according to a senior administration official who said some details could still change.
“CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said earlier Tuesday.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s plans before the announcement, said options under consideration also included post-arrival testing requirements and self-quarantines.
The CDC currently recommends post-arrival testing three to five days after landing in the U.S. from overseas and self-quarantine for unvaccinated travelers, though compliance is voluntary and is believed to be low.
The move comes just weeks after the U.S. largely reopened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign travelers on Nov. 8 and instituted a two-tiered testing system that allowed fully vaccinated travelers more time to seek a pre-arrival test, while requiring a test within a day of boarding for the unvaccinated.
The Biden administration also has allowed large numbers of illegal immigrants to enter the country without any vaccine or testing requirements.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the lack of such barriers for migrants during a Sept. 20 news conference and said, “The intention is for them to be quarantined. That is our process, they’re not intending to stay here for a lengthy period of time, I don’t think it’s the same thing. It’s not the same thing.”
Much remains unknown about the new variant, which has been identified in more than 20 countries but not yet in the U.S., including whether it is more contagious, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.
The South African doctor who first spotted the omicron variant is using the word “mild” to describe it.
In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Dr. Angelique Coetzee of Pretoria said, “What we are seeing clinically in South Africa — and remember I’m at the epicenter of this where I’m practicing — is extremely mild, for us [these are] mild cases. We haven’t admitted anyone.
“I’ve spoken to other colleagues of mine and they give the same picture.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, said more would be known about the omicron strain in two to four weeks as scientists grow and test lab samples of the virus.
As he sought to quell public concern about the new variant, Biden said that in his Thursday remarks, “I’ll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we’re going to fight COVID this winter — not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.