U.S. May Require Negative COVID-19 Results from All Incoming Travelers

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Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. will likely begin requiring all international travelers—including returning U.S. citizens—to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to a board a flight to the country. The move could go into effect as soon as January 26, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

The CDC’s expected announcement on universal testing for travelers entering the U.S. expands the recent U.K.-specific passenger testing that was announced in late December in an effort to slow the spread of a more contagious variant of the virus. (The new strain has since been found in at least six states in the U.S.) The details of the order—like when passengers are required to be tested ahead of their flight and how they will submit their results—are still being worked out by the CDC and other government agencies, according to WSJ. Non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents coming from Europe, the U.K., and China will still be barred from entry, with or without a negative test. 

Earlier this month, Airlines for America, which represents all major U.S. airlines, urged the U.S. government to institute “a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States,” in lieu of the current travel restrictions for international travelers, Reuters reported. “We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,” Airlines for America stated in its letter.

This testing protocol has already been implemented by a few U.S. states for domestic travel, allowing for shortened quarantine times with a negative result ahead of flight. Hawaii requires negative COVID-19 results from a test taken with 72 hours of departure by an approved testing partner, and some islands require additional testing on arrival, while travelers to Alaska must arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. New York now requires travelers to test within three days of departing for New York and quarantine for three days upon arrival before taking a second test. If the CDC moves forward with this announcement, it would be the first country-wide testing policy for international travelers in the U.S. 

This is a developing story and will be updated with more information. We’re reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.

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