As you might have heard by now, beginning January 26th, the U.S. government will require all inbound international passengers to test negative for COVID-19, and present proof, before boarding flights into the United States, including Americans returning from abroad. This order applies to all air passengers, 2 years of age or older, traveling into the U.S., including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. If a passenger chooses not to provide a test result or documentation of recovery, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the order last Tuesday confirming the new requirement after holding discussions for weeks among federal agencies and the White House coronavirus task force.
Starting on January 26, all air passengers will have to get a viral test within three days of their flight to the U.S. and bring documentation of either the test (can be electronic) or documentation that they were infected and recovered, to their airline. Airlines, according to the CDC rules, must then confirm the negative test for all passengers before boarding, and any passenger without the documentation must be denied boarding.
If you have recently recovered from COVID-19, the CDC does not recommend getting tested again in the three months after a positive viral test, as long as you do not have symptoms. If you have had a positive viral test in the past 3 months, and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel instead with documentation of your positive viral test results and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating you have been cleared for travel. This order will apply to all travelers regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC believes that with the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as work continues to vaccinate the American public.
For the travel industry, this is another challenge because it is not anticipated that this ruling will be lifted in the short-term. Hopefully there will be clarification and solutions coming soon. Our team will continue to monitor the information to help you have the confidence to book a vacation.
One of the biggest concerns I am hearing from clients is the possibility of getting stranded in a destination should they test positive. Agencies in the travel community are working hard to determine what insurance coverage can be purchased, isolation options at destinations, and the options they may have for return other than commercial flights if denied boarding. These lobbying efforts are just getting started and we will keep you informed of their success. We want you to have all the facts, so you don't have to navigate this on your own.