U.S. ‘actively looking’ at mandating COVID-19 testing for domestic air travel

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The Biden administration is “actively looking” at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing to travelers on U.S. domestic flights, a senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official said on Tuesday.

On a call with reporters, Dr. Marty Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at CDC, was asked about whether new domestic travel testing requirements might be employed. Cetron replied that there were “conversations that are ongoing and looking at what the types and locations of testing might be… We’re actively looking at it.”

Last week, President Joe Biden directed U.S. agencies to make recommendations to “impose additional public health measures for domestic travel” and to consider new requirements for people crossing land borders. Reuters reported Friday that administration officials said that could include requiring negative COVID-19 tests before flying domestically.

“We realize that there’s been a dramatic evolution and increase in both testing platforms and testing capacity. I think this is a really important part of our toolkit to combat this pandemic,” Cetron said.

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On Tuesday, new CDC rules took effect requiring nearly all international air travelers aged 2 and older to present a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel or proof of COVID-19 recovery to enter the United States.

In discussions with airline officials, the CDC has said it is considering requiring domestic testing, too. Some airline officials worry such requirements could curtail already weak demand for air travel.

The CDC said Sunday it would not grant waivers to exempt travelers from some countries with limited testing capacity. Numerous U.S. airlines had sought waivers.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ian Brownlee told reporters CDC was “not at this time issuing federal quarantine orders” but recommends self-quarantining for seven days after returning from a trip and getting post-arrival COVID-19 tests.

Brownlee said the “main message to U.S. citizens considering travel abroad remains the same: Seriously reconsider going overseas right now. If you’re overseas right now, it’s going to be harder to come home for a while.”

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