The US Drops Its COVID Testing Requirement for International Travel

Here's what you need to know

Negative COVID test

On Friday, the Biden administration announced that, starting Sunday, a negative pre-departure COVID test will no longer be necessary to enter the country. This comes more than a year after the U.S. first implemented the test-to-enter policy and more than two years since the start of the pandemic.

Per a new report from The Guardian, the CDC has ultimately determined that tests are no longer necessary, though they are reportedly set to reassess the decision in three months. “If there is a need to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement — including due to a new, concerning variant — CDC will not hesitate to act,” an official for the administration said.

Travel executives have been calling for an end to the testing requirement for months. In March, the CEOs of 10 airlines and cargo carriers — Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air Worldwide, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and UPS Airlines — signed a letter to the President urging him to do so.

“Now is the time for the Administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions — including the international pre-departure testing requirement and the federal mask mandate — that are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment,” the letter read. Just last week, American Airlines chief executive Robert Isom said the testing requirement was “nonsensical” and “depressing” leisure and business travel.

A study published last September of Italy-bound Delta Air Lines passengers (conducted by the Mayo Clinic, Delta Air Lines and the Georgia Department of Health) concluded that a mandatory PCR coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of flying helped weed out the overwhelming majority of COVID-infected travelers. Of the 9,853 travelers who tested negative prior to departure, only five passengers wound up testing positive immediately before or after the flight. 

We’d also be remiss not to point out that COVID is very much still happening. Just yesterday, there were 117,665 new cases confirmed in the U.S., and the seven day average of this past week is 111,250. Further, many countries outside of the U.S. are still requiring a negative test to enter and, should you test positive there, mandating quarantine. And, in the worst case scenario, if you wind up needing medical attention? It’ll likely cost you.

All of this to say: the international testing requirement might have been scrapped, but it’s still as important as ever to exercise precaution. You should still take an at-home test ahead of your next trip and get in the habit of carrying one with you for good measure.


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