Yesterday, the United States announced it would require negative coronavirus tests for all inbound US travelers coming from abroad, even US citizens. Today, the US Centers for Disease Control has published a number of exceptions to the new testing requirement.
Exceptions To New Testing Requirement For All Inbound International Travelers To USA
All inbound passengers to the United States, including US citizens, must present a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight to the USA. This can be in the from of a nucleic acid amplification (PCR) or antigen test. The test must be taken no more three calendar days prior to the start of your journey. If you are connecting, the test only must be within three days of your first flight, provided your connection(s) are under 24 hours.
However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a number of exceptions.
First, children under two are exempt (meaning all those two and older must present testing).
The CDC also published four category exceptions to its new universal order, which I am quoting verbatim below:
- Crew members of airlines or other aircraft operators provided that they follow industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 as set forth in relevant Safety Alerts
- Airlines or other aircraft operators transporting passengers with COVID-19 pursuant to CDC authorization and in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Federal law enforcement personnel while on official duty and carrying out a law enforcement function and members of the U.S. military (including aircraft operators), when traveling under competent orders—provided that the authority ordering the travel requires precautions to prevent the possible transmission of infection to others during the travel period in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Airlines or other aircraft operators granted specific waivers from the application of this Order based on CDC’s determination that a foreign country lacks available SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity. Such waivers may be granted based on a specific request made by an airline or aircraft operator to the CDC and will be limited to 14 days unless renewed by CDC.
The exemption for airline crews, law enforcement, and military personnel was expected. But the final exception may prove interesting. It is undeniable that there is not the infrastructure in place in every nation to accommodate rapid COVID-19 testing. By opening the door to exceptions based upon a country’s testing capacity, CDC diminishes the risk that Americans will be stranded abroad. No exception nations have been announced yet.
There is no exemption to this travel restriction for US citizens or permanent residents nor foreign nationals who agree to a quarantine requirement.
Extra Exception: Proof Of Positive Test + Recovery
An additional exception is granted if you have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered. In order to travel under this exception, you must bring proof of a positive test result as well as a signed letter from a licensed healthcare provider (on official letterhead) stating that you have been cleared to travel. The letter must include:
- Telephone number
Furthermore, the positive test must have occurred within the last 90 days. As our understanding of COVID-19 develops, the CDC may modify that timeframe.
There is no exception for those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations are a helpful tool, but not failsafe. The testing requirement begins January 26, 2021. Children under two are exempt, those who tested positive and recovered are exempt, and we may see further certain country waivers based upon testing capacity.
Some will applaud that even in the USA, international travel testing exceptions are rare.
Vaccines aren’t fail safe.
That may be true but previous infection doesn’t prevent reinfection not being an asymptomatic carrier.
The cdc wants previous covid patients to get vaccinated so why in this case they are exempting previous infections (natural immunity) over the vaccinated (acquired immunity)?
*nor being an asymptomatic carrier
Pete, totally fair point. I believe there should be an exception for vaccinations as well.
Hoping they will add it later
This new travel requirement is not thoughout. There are many international destinations that do not have the testing infrastructure. I Live in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo. There are maybe 2-3 testing sites for the population. Get a result within 3 days before the flight! Maybe maybe not. International travel was already working for a year. Temperatures taken prior to leaving and arrival.. Now add a rapid test requirement when arrival in the US then quarantine. Now the airlines will cancel the few flights
Pete – While the efficacy of these vaccines are really high, vaccines generally succeed only when there are enough people who get it. The more people that get it, the higher the odds of the virus struggling to find a host to successfully attack and spread. For now, there are still not enough people who were vaccinated, and the Pfizer vaccine isn’t going to be fully effective until patients get their 2nd dose (which adds more delay). It’s a measure that can be revisited in the next 6 months, but I think it’s a good move still to require that they be tested still.
It’s pretty dangerous issuing any exceptions for previous infection. Let’s see how many Covid parties happen now so that people can get infected and recover to be able to travel.
A vaccination exception seems more responsible, to encourage people to get the vaccine.
We just came from the UK yesterday and they didn’t even check our COVID test results. We flew through AMS to ATL from Manchester, but they didn’t even question where we originated.
I appreciate how cumbersome it would be for international FAs and pilots to have to test, but aren’t they a real source of risk of transmission?
Curious to see if Mexico and DR are the first to make the list.
Admittedly, there’s more than just SJD, PVR, and CUN in Mexico. A lot of people move between the US and Mexico for good reason, and this could be challenging to many.
Odd, the vaccine seems to be as effective as having antibodies after recovering from Covid. I expect that will change fairly quickly when more get the jab.
Over 10 million doses given in the US so far. Canada is way behind at 374,366. They should be at 1 million.
If you got covid and cured, the easiest way to prove it is by negative result of PCR-RT post infection. Why signed letter? Why make things complicated? American logic is weird….
1) I know MANY people who have had COVID and didn’t know it until later, whether asymptomatic and went to donate blood and had positive antibodies tests, for example (verified and titered enough to even donate plasma, so I don’t mean a one-off) or people who lived in the same house with one who had it and knew they had it but just didn’t bother to get tested since they were sick and all quarantined. So now they don’t have “proof.”
2) Studies show immunity probably lasts for much more than 90 days
3) The CDC wants people to get the vaccine yet does nothing to encourage it. Testings costs hundreds of dollars and it’s less reliable in the sense that a positive antibodies test from a vaccine proof or old infection is MUCH less likely to show an infection than someone who got infected 24 hours after the test.
Yes, I know, we’re pretending the vaccine may not prevent spread. Sure we are–though some prelim research already shows it does. But whatever. This is why I did my international travel the second I had the chance. My respect for the CDC left months ago. It’s more worth it for me to get sick and tax the system than to get vaccinated. I know I sound angry. It’s just so BACKWARDS after 10 months. I hope Biden replaces the lot of ’em (I don’t even know how much authority he has there, but I am over it).
PS I should add that I personally know some genuinely suicidal people over some of the US policies, and they cant even reach out for help because of–well, that’s a whole other story, so I am mostly angry because we have been shut off from the world and can’t see each other or touch each other, and people are dying, and now we’re obsessed with a freaking test and FURTHER discouraging a vaccine.