President Biden to require quarantine for international travel, masks on planes

Jan 21, 2021

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President Joe Biden is signing executive orders today that will require face masks on all flights, and require all people arriving into the United States from another country to quarantine.

In a news conference this afternoon, Biden said, “We are going to take steps necessary to slow the spread of the disease now.”

He called wearing a mask a “patriotic duty,” and said masks would be required on all trains, planes and buses.

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The president says anyone coming into the United States by air “will need to test before they get onto that plane before they depart and quarantine when they arrive in America.”

Final details of the quarantine requirement for air travel are still being worked on, and will be crafted based on recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Biden is asking these agencies to submit their recommendations on quarantine length — as well as the type and timing of acceptable testing for travel — to his administration within 14 days.

The Biden administration is also specifically asking the agencies to consider and make recommendations on issues like possible testing fraud, and how to handle entry for passengers traveling from countries where tests may not be readily available.

For travelers arriving to the U.S. by land, a similar recommendation process will include the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation. Recommendations for sea travel will be made, in part, by the Coast Guard.

The executive order also lays the groundwork for the creation of “vaccine passports,” which passengers can use as proof of vaccination when they’re ready to travel, including a digital version of the passports.

Today’s announcements add to a previous policy from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Jan. 12 that all passengers arriving in the United States would be required to have a negative COVID-19 test in order to board their flights beginning Jan. 26.

The White House released nearly 200 pages of documents detailing the changes in what it’s calling the “National Strategy for the COVID-19 response and Pandemic Preparedness.”

It reads, in part: “…  the president issued an executive order that requires mask-wearing on certain public modes of transportation and at ports of entry to the United States … International air travel requires a recent negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure and quarantine on arrival, consistent with CDC guidelines. The executive order also directs agencies to develop options for expanding public health measures for domestic travel and cross-border land and sea travel and calls for incentives to support and encourage compliance with CDC guidelines on public transportation.”


Additional reporting Laura Motta.

Featured photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

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