The CDC Just Made This COVID Precaution Mandatory
The most recent major change from the agency will affect many in the coming months.
One of the biggest changes to daily life during the coronavirus pandemic has been its effect on how, when, and if we travel. Now, with new COVID cases surging across the U.S. and around the globe, health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking more direct action to help stop the spread. According to a newly announced order from the CDC, it will be mandatory for all passengers on international flights arriving in the United States to show proof of a negative COVID test before traveling.
"Testing does not eliminate all risk, 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," CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in a news release. Read on to see why the agency is adding this precautionary measure, and for more on how to be sure you're really keeping yourself safe, check out If You're Not Doing This, Your Mask Won't Protect You, Study Says.
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The new rules will go into effect before the end of the month.
According to the new order, as of Jan. 26, all arriving passengers will be required to test negative within three days leading up to their travel date to the U.S. or be able to provide proof that they have recovered from the disease, The New York Times reports. Airlines must approve passengers' documentation before boarding and must deny anyone who refuses to be tested beforehand.
"Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19," officials said in a statement released by the agency. "With the U.S. 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." And for an update on where the virus seems to be doing the most damage, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.
The latest order is an expansion of an existing policy.
While the act of producing a negative test result is a new requirement for many U.S.-bound travelers, the new order is not the first travel measure that has been taken to control the spread of infection. After a highly transmissible mutation of the virus was discovered to have originated in the U.K. in December, the CDC joined scores of other countries in instituting a similar testing rule for any passengers arriving from Britain.
Despite already facing a drastic decrease in international travel, expansion of the policy was welcomed by major U.S. airlines as the best possible solution to an already bad situation. In a letter obtained by Reuters, Airlines for America, a group representing the nation's largest carriers, wrote: "We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place." And for more on major indicators that you may be sick, check out This Is the "Strongest, Most Consistent" Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.
The news comes as even more COVID variants are being discovered.
The U.K. may have been the target of the latest travel restrictions, but recent discoveries are confirming health experts' predictions that the virus will continue to mutate as it spreads. Another highly contagious variant of the novel coronavirus that originated in South Africa has spread to at least 10 countries, as well as a newly discovered mutation that was brought into Japan by travelers arriving from Brazil.
Scientists are still trying to assess how differently each variant behaves during infection, with some expressing concern that changes to the genetic makeup of the virus could affect vaccination or treatment efforts. While appearing by video at the Forum on Preparedness hosted by Schmidt Futures on Jan. 12. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: "It could be having some impact on protection for the monoclonal antibodies and perhaps even for the vaccine. We don't know that." And for more on this, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Is What's "Disturbing" About One New COVID Strain.
The CDC still recommends testing before domestic flights.
Just because you're not planning on leaving the country doesn't mean you can avoid pre-trip precautions altogether. The CDC still recommends that all domestic flyers get tested one to three days before their flight and then get tested again three to five days after traveling before self-isolating at home for a full week—even if they test negative. This should also be on top of any specific quarantine requirements anywhere you visit or where you live.
"Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces," the CDC warns on its website. "Social distancing is difficult in busy airports and on crowded flights, and sitting within six feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19." And for more news from the CDC, check out The CDC Just Gave a Shocking COVID Vaccine Update.