The Biden administration is considering implementing restrictions for domestic travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic, including potentially requiring negative COVID tests prior to air travel.
Reuters reported that the Biden administration is “actively looking” at forcing domestic travelers to test negative for the coronavirus prior to boarding flights. But new measures might also include those who intend to cross “land borders,” Reuters reported.
Dr. Marty Cetron, director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was on a media call Tuesday and was asked about domestic travel testing.
Per Reuters, which had a reporter on the call, Cetron said there are “conversations that are ongoing and looking at what the types and locations of testing might be. … We’re actively looking at it.”
The revelation came a week after Biden signed an executive order on “Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel.”
The order mandated the wearing of masks at airports, on commercial aircraft, on trains and on “public maritime vessels, including ferries.” Masks were also ordered to be worn on intercity bus services and “all forms of public transportation as defined in section 5302 of title 49, United States Code.”
The order also said that public health authorities “may impose additional public health measures for domestic travel.”
According to Cetron, a required negative COVID test, such as the one required when flying into the U.S. aboard an international flight, might soon be required for domestic flights as well.
“We realize that there’s been a dramatic evolution and increase in both testing platforms and testing capacity. I think this is a really important part of our toolkit to combat this pandemic,” he said.
Reuters noted CDC officials had been in contact with major airlines, which shared fears that such invasive measures could hurt the already short demand for travel. Numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics showed that in August, passenger traffic had declined 70 percent from the same month in 2019.
Although holidays gave the industry a boost, 2020 was a bad year for the airlines, and 2021’s outlook is not promising. So far this year, demand for travel is down year to year when compared to 2020, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Screening numbers from the Transportation Security Administration show a drastic drop in travelers being seen at security checkpoints.
On Tuesday, for example, 468,933 people were screened at TSA checkpoints. That number was 1,643,435 on the same day in 2020, and 1,571,077 on Jan. 26, 2019.
When looking at the rest of this month, a decline in traffic is notably similar for this year when compared to last year.
Cetron did not disclose if skittish passengers and the concerning low demand for air travel might see officials back off from requiring COVID tests for flights.
The CDC official did speak vaguely about testing efficiency.
“We realize that there’s been a dramatic evolution and increase in both testing platforms and testing capacity,” Cetron said. “I think this is a really important part of our toolkit to combat this pandemic.”
Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ian Brownlee did not comment on possible forthcoming domestic travel restrictions but did urge Americans to think seriously about traveling internationally.
“Seriously reconsider going overseas right now. If you’re overseas right now, it’s going to be harder to come home for a while,” he said.
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