The Biden administration will not rule out a requirement for domestic air passengers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.
The day marked the opening of the United States to international travelers for the first time in nearly 20 months. Those travelers must prove they are vaccinated and have tested negative for the virus within three days of their flight to the U.S.
With international travel as the backdrop, Jean-Pierre was asked if a similar policy was planned for domestic air travel.
“So, you know, we say this all the time: Everything is on the table. We just don’t have any announcement to preview right now on this. So I don’t have anything more to share on the domestic travel,” she said.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has introduced a bill making it mandatory to be fully vaccinated, or to have recently tested negative for the coronavirus, or to have “fully recovered from COVID-19” in order to take a domestic flight.
“We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge. We simply cannot allow that to happen again,” Feinstein said in a statement on her website.
“Ensuring that air travelers protect themselves and their destination communities from this disease is critical to prevent the next surge, particularly if we confront new, more virulent variants of COVID-19. This bill complements similar travel requirements already in place for all air passengers – including Americans – who fly to the United States from foreign countries. This includes flights from foreign countries with lower COVID-19 rates than many U.S. states.
“It only makes sense that we also ensure the millions of airline passengers that crisscross our country aren’t contributing to further transmission, especially as young children remain ineligible to be vaccinated,” she said.
White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said last month that imposing such a mandate would require “input from a number of parts of the government.”
“On the table is the issue of mandates for vaccine. It’s always discussable, we always wind up discussing it, but right now I don’t see that immediately,” he said, according to The Washington Post
“I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, that you should be vaccinated,” he said on a podcast.
In an interview with the Post two days later, he was a little more cautious.
“It’s on the table; we haven’t decided yet,” he said. “But if the president said, ‘You know, let’s go ahead and do it,’ I would be supportive of it.”
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has called such a mandate “logistically impractical.”
“I think it would require government response and government tracking to make that practical, and make it work, and so it’s probably unlikely to happen domestically,” he said, according to the Post.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian also has poured cold water on the idea.
“You also look at the logistical dilemma — we’re carrying millions of people a week — of trying to figure out who’s been vaccinated, who’s not, who qualifies for an exemption,” he said. “It would actually bottleneck the domestic travel system.”
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