In one of his first major moves as President, Joe Biden, on Jan. 21, tightened mask-wearing rules for Americans and ordered mandatory testing and quarantine for all travelers to the United States.
According to the Associated Press, 10 orders signed by President Biden are aimed at jump-starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel.
One directive calls for addressing healthcare inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.
“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around,” Biden said at the White House. US deaths have surged past 400,000, and he noted projections that they could reach 500,000 in a month.
Biden’s mask order for travel applies to airports and planes, ships, inter-city buses, trains, and public transportation. Travelers from abroad must furnish a negative COVID-19 test before departing for the US and must quarantine upon arrival. Biden has already mandated masks on federal property.
Although airlines, Amtrak, and other transport providers now require masks, Biden’s order makes it a federal mandate, leaving little wiggle room for passengers tempted to argue about their rights. According to AP, the action was applauded by airline unions and supported by a major industry trade group.
Biden’s new testing order is consistent with the new CDC protocol that will take effect on January 26. The order spells trouble for small nations like Jamaica, which have experienced challenges meeting the demand for testing because of new travel protocols imposed by large nations like Canada and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica’s minister of health and wellness, said that while the new protocols by foreign nations have put a strain on the island’s capacity for testing, the government is looking to expand testing through private labs in the coming weeks to meet the demand.