The Biden administration is considering a rule requiring negative Covid-19 test results for household air travelAccording to Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“At the moment there is an active discussion with the CDC,” Buttigieg told Axios. “What I can tell you is that it’s driven by data, science, medicine, and input from the people who actually need to do this.”
Buttigieg said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday that the CDC is “considering all of its options.”
“What we do know is that it is the appropriate measure for international travel, people traveling to the US with some of these considerations in mind. You know, I’d say the domestic image is very different, but you know that CDC always rates what can best be done to protect Americans, “Buttigieg said.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on Monday that screening U.S. travelers for Covid-19 could be helpful. However, she did not comment on whether there are any plans to test domestic travelers.
“To the extent that we have tests available to primarily do tests, I would really encourage people not to travel,” Walensky said during a White House briefing. “But if we’re on the way, this would be another remedy to reduce the spread.”
When Buttigieg was asked if he supported the idea of requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination before the flight, he said that was left to the CDC.
“So this is not a step that has been taken and here again CDC is really leading in deciding what to do.”
Domestic and international tests
The discussion follows a CDC rule that went into effect in late January and provided for negative Covid-19 tests for international travelers, US citizens and US residents.
The US Travel Association, a national not-for-profit organization, called this rule “key to reopening international travel” for inbound travelers.
However, the group does not support a test requirement for domestic air travelers.
The group called compulsory test for domestic travelers “impractical”, noting that there are no defined ports of entry and that such an action “could divert scarce public health resources from other priorities”.
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, described the mandatory testing for domestic travelers as “a terrible idea”. He cited only a few documented cases of Covid transmission on board commercial aircraft and feared that testing for air travelers would take test resources out of areas of greater need.
“It won’t make home flyers safer,” Bastian told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “If anything, it will keep people away from what they need to do to get out not just for important trips but to get their lives back.”
He said it was a “logistical nightmare” that would delay the recovery of the entire hospitality industry.
Other groups raise concerns
The industry association Airlines for America has also raised concerns about possible testing requirements for domestic flights.
In a recent letter to the White House, the organization highlighted the risk-based measures the industry has taken to curb Covid-19 transmission and research shows that the risk of in-flight infection is low.
“Given the strong scientific evidence that the risk of Covid-19 transmission on board an aircraft is very low, we believe a domestic flight testing requirement is not warranted,” the letter said.
“In addition, public health and economic data suggest that these policies would disproportionately discourage low-income travelers and rural Americans in small communities from traveling.”
A4A also reiterated the US Travel Association’s concern that such testing would divert resources from more pressing public health priorities.
Aircraft maker Boeing also declines to require testing for domestic air travelers, saying the federal government should pay for testing if the request is accepted.
“Such a burden on the already financially troubled aviation industry can have serious unintended consequences that will affect the entire economy,” said Stanley Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and Michael Delaney, Boeing’s chief aerospace safety officer, in a letter to the White House Covid-19 Recovery Team.
“If the administration dictates a test mandate, funds should also be provided to meet the requirements.”
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Nick Neville, Andrea Diaz and Pete Muntean contributed to this report. Top photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images
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