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It’s official: Negative COVID-19 Test Requirement to All Air Passengers Entering the US

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As I had mentioned in my earlier Facebook post, news began spreading about the possibility of COVID-19 testing requirement before entering the US. By mid-afternoon, the news had become official.
Here’s the official press release from the CDC:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States. Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19. This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.

Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants.  With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.

Before departure to the United States, a required test, combined with the CDC recommendations to get tested again 3-5 days after arrival and stay home for 7 days post-travel, will help slow the spread of COVID-19 within US communities from travel-related infections. Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help identify infected travelers before they board airplanes.

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” says CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, “but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”

This order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12, 2021 and will become effective on January 26, 2021.

Travel just got harder

It’s quite stressful enough for Americans to get tested while in the US in preparation for a trip outside the US to destinations that require negative tests, reports of uncertainties with results coming back BEFORE their trip is one of the major hurdles. I could only imagine the heightened uncertainty with getting test results back from a foreign country. For instance, if my Spring trip to Japan materializes, I would also need to make plans and get tested during my vacation, and ensure that I get my results back before I board my flight to the US… added anxiety that I haven’t fully processed. 

Many have expressed concerns that some countries will not test anyone unless they are symptomatic. Others have also expressed the added costs of getting tested before flying back to the US.

Will this prevent you from traveling outside the US

For me, yes…and I’m speaking as a family man who loves traveling with our four kids. With the timing issue, there are possibilities that out of the six tests we will need to take (2 adults and 4 kids), what if we only get 5 of our results back? I will have to think about our planned future trips. Perhaps, consider just taking more road trips, or simply taking trips within the US. In any case, it is unknown until when this requirement will be in place. Best to stay informed and be kept updated with all the changes.

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