Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States will now require that all incoming passengers, including American citizens, present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.
The announcement was made by the country’s top public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a statement, the agency said that, “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.”
The announcement is also in light of new strains of COVID-19 now being detected in the country. A CDC map shows that there are 72 strains of the new variant of COVID-19 in the United States (as of January 11), with Florida and California having the most reported cases.
As per the new guidelines, 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.