Just a few days after the U.S. began mandating tests for those returning to the country after international travel, the Biden administration is reportedly considering expanding the policy to include domestic flights. The policy could have adverse impacts on the already hard-hit travel industry, but Biden’s first priority in office has been to contain the spread of the virus. Here’s what you need to know.
Biden Administration May Expand Testing Requirements
On a call with reporters this week, CDC official Dr. Marty Cetron said the Biden Administration was “actively looking at” requiring tests for domestic travel. The administration is considering how the policy would work logistically and what tests would be accepted, but Cetron said testing is “an important part of our toolkit” to contain the pandemic. President Joe Biden directed U.S. agencies to impose further public health measures on domestic travel earlier this week, and it’s possible tests will be a part of that.
In order for domestic travel testing to work, the U.S. would likely have to dramatically increase testing capacity at airports, especially rapid testing.
Travel Industry Pushing Back
The news that tests may soon be required for domestic travel in addition to international travel was met with heavy criticism from the travel industry. A coalition of 23 travel industry groups wrote a letter to Biden’s team saying that a domestic travel requirement was “unwarranted,” and pointed to data from the International Air Transport Association that shows that only 44 cases of inflight transmission have been documented since the start of 2020.
Travel industry experts claim that air travel is actually much safer than other activities, like indoor shopping. With cases dropping and vaccine rollout continuing (albeit slowly), travel industry advocates are keen to minimize the continued impact on bookings, but reports of variants being found in the U.S. has public health officials on high alert.
The industry has been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic. U.S. air carriers reported a collective loss of $34 billion in 2020.
Tests May Be Required Even for Vaccinated People
It’s not clear yet what the testing requirement would look like if implemented. However, if it followed the same guidelines as the international travel rules put in place earlier this week, it’s possible tests would be required even for vaccinated people (there’s limited data on whether vaccinated people can still transmit the virus).
The international testing requirements for those entering the U.S. from other countries require that everyone entering the country who is over 2 get a test, whether they are vaccinated or not, and the test must be a viral swab test that determines active infection (rather than an antibody blood test).
We are watching the testing regulations carefully and will keep you updated as we know more.
In the meantime, if you are preparing for future travel, we recommend making sure your passport is up to date and enrolling in TSA PreCheck, which can minimize your exposure in the airport and help keep you and other passengers safer. You can enroll in TSA PreCheck and get help with other travel needs for free with Skip Plus. We also post regular travel news updates on our blog and on the Skip App, which is available on the App Store and Google Play.