No domestic travel testing mandate from Biden for now, according to report

Feb 12, 2021

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There’s been chatter — and hand-wringing — in the travel world about whether the Biden administration will require travelers to present negative COVID-19 tests for domestic flights.

Delta Air Lines’ CEO called the potential move a “horrible idea,” while the industry trade organization Airlines for America (A4A) called it “unwarranted.” Now, according to a report by Bloomberg, President Joe Biden is said to not be seriously considering a testing mandate for domestic travel.

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that reports of a “new requirement, such as testing” are “not accurate.”

But TPG spoke to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last week, who, at the time, didn’t rule out the idea.

“There’s a conversation underway with the CDC on that,” he said last week. “What I can tell you is that the guiding lights of that conversation will be a lot of engagement and dialogue and a lot of attention to evidence and data.”

As we’ve reported previously, requiring COVID-19 tests for domestic travel could seriously discourage travelers, who may see it as an additional roadblock during an already complicated travel experience.

It could also be prohibitively expensive for some people, who may need to pay an out-of-pocket fee if they aren’t covered by insurance.

And it’s unclear how a domestic testing mandate would be enforced, what modes of transportation would be affected and whether there’s even the capacity for that much testing. Even now, finding a reliable place to get a timely COVID-19 test for travel is an ongoing challenge.

Currently, all travelers flying into the U.S. from abroad are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding. But, as Bloomberg pointed out, the number of international arrivals makes this testing requirement far more feasible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that most viruses don’t spread easily on flights because of air circulation. However, the agency also noted that social distancing would be difficult on packed flights, and being in an enclosed space for hours “may increase” your risk of catching the virus.

Featured photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

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