Biden Admin May Require COVID-19 Testing for Domestic Air Travel

February 9, 2021 Updated: February 9, 2021

U.S. health officials are mulling a requirement that airline passengers test negative for COVID-19 before traveling domestically, according to a Biden administration official.

The administration is engaged in an “active conversation” with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a recent interview on “Axios on HBO.”

“What I can tell you is, it’s going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out,” Buttigieg added.

The United States requires negative tests for all air passengers entering the country from a foreign nation. The CDC order, which went into effect on Jan. 26, requires passengers to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Buttigieg added during an appearance Monday on CNN that the CDC is reviewing all of its options.

“What we know is that it’s the appropriate measure for international travel, people traveling into the U.S. given some of those considerations. You know I’d say the domestic picture is very different, but you know the CDC is always evaluating what can best be done to keep Americans safe,” Buttigieg said.

A man gathers his luggage after arriving at Miami International Airport on a plane from New York in Miami, Fla., on Feb. 1, 2021. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a Feb. 8 virtual briefing that the more screening that’s done in places where people are gathering, the more asymptomatic cases are detected.

“And certainly, there’s more gathering that happens in airports. And so, to the extent that we have available tests to be able to do testing. First and foremost, I would really encourage people to not travel. But if we are traveling, this would be yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease the spread,” she said.

“With regard to domestic travel, I think in the words of Dr. Walensky and the CDC, now is not the time to be traveling if at all possible,” added Andy Slavitt, an adviser to the Biden administration on COVID-19.

Americans are flying domestically, but the air travel remains lower than normal amid the pandemic.

The Transportation Security Administration reported screening some 864,000 passengers on Monday, down from 2.1 million on the same date the previous year.

Some have pushed back on the proposal to require testing to fly within the country.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told lawmakers during a House committee hearing last week that mandating the testing could lead to airline bankruptcies.

She also questioned why the airline industry was being singled out.

“Isolating the airline industry and not doing the same thing for mass transit or doing this at grocery stores or restaurants doesn’t make any sense,” she told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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