US tightens pre-travel testing windows, extends mask mandates for travelers to fight omicron variant
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the confirmed start date of the new testing policy.
The Biden Administration has announced a plan of action to ward off the omicron variant of the coronavirus — including several steps that will impact travelers.
The new protocols, which the White House unveiled Thursday, include shoring up pre-departure testing requirements for international travel. Starting on Monday, Dec. 6, 2022, all travelers coming to the U.S., whether they are vaccinated or not, must produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within one calendar day of their departure. The policy applies to all international flights that depart for the U.S. at (or after) 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Dec. 6.
This includes international visitors as well as U.S. citizens and residents returning home. The current policy allows a three-day window for fully vaccinated individuals — but that will be shortened for all travelers as of Monday.
The move is designed to minimize the spread of the omicron variant in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already labeled omicron a “variant of concern.” The Biden Administration last week already implemented a temporary ban restricting travel from eight Southern African countries.
The federal mask mandate for airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation has also been extended until March 18. Travelers must continue to mask up during international or other public travel as well as in transportation hubs such as airports and indoor bus terminals. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will continue to enforce mask-wearing, with violators facing fines that start at $500 and potentially reaching as high as $3,000 for repeat offenders.
President Biden is expected to discuss the U.S. strategy for fighting a possible COVID-19 resurgence over the winter on Thursday, as well as the extension of the mask mandate. Other aspects of the new COVID strategy includes expanding free at-home COVID tests for Americans through testing sites, community centers and clinics for rural areas.
There have been two confirmed cases of the Omicron COVID variant discovered in the U.S. — the first in California and the most recent a Minnesota man who had traveled to New York City.
Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees