If You're Unvaccinated, The White House Is Implementing This New Rule
The latest requirements will change the way people who haven't received their shots re-enter the U.S.
In recent weeks, vaccines have been required in some major cities to access such things as indoor dining, bars, gyms, theaters, and museums. However, it wasn't until Sept. 9 when President Joe Biden announced a new set of mandates affecting federal employees, health care workers, and large companies that the impact of shot requirements reached people from coast to coast. Now, the White House has said it's implementing another new rule that will apply to those who are unvaccinated and affect how they take to the skies.
On Sept. 20, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, announced sweeping changes to long-standing rules surrounding international travel amid the pandemic set to go into effect in November. One of the major updates will require any unvaccinated American citizens to test negative for COVID one day before their return flight to the United States. Unvaccinated travelers will also be required to prove they've purchased a test to take upon re-entry to the U.S.
The new rules will shorten the current window set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which requires that all citizens returning to the United States from abroad by air produce a negative COVID test within three days before boarding their flight. The requirement for unvaccinated travelers to purchase a test to be taken upon their return also represents a step up from the CDC's current policy, which simply recommends seeking out a test three to five days after returning from any trip abroad. Zients also specified that the updated rules will only apply to air travel and will not affect crossings at land borders.
The White House's update will also significantly affect non-citizens looking to visit the U.S. by lifting restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers. Under the current travel ban that has been in place for 18 months, most foreign nationals who have been in the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, China, and 26 countries within the European Union within the past 14 days are currently barred from entering the U.S. India was also added to the list of countries in early May. However, the refreshed rules will essentially ban any unvaccinated visitors from entering the U.S. when they go into effect, even if they are arriving from countries that have not previously been under a travel ban.
"International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange of ideas and culture," Zients told reporters during the announcement. "That's why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel."
Foreign officials applauded the White House's decision, having long been eager to see travel restrictions dropped—especially as Britain and the European Union have largely lifted reciprocal restrictions on fully vaccinated Americans. Representatives for the travel industry also voiced support for the move, saying the change would allow airlines and businesses dependent upon tourism a chance to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.
"U.S. airlines have been strong advocates for a stringent, consistent policy and are eager to safely reunite the countless families, friends, and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer. Today's announcement marks a positive step in our nation's recovery," Nicholas Calio, CEO of airline advocacy group Airlines for America, said in a statement.