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In case you missed it, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring international air travelers to quarantine upon arrival to the United States.
The order, which was signed last week, also reiterates and expands on the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rule requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country.
Through the order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) is tasked with reviewing current CDC guidelines surrounding travel and creating a plan to implement and enforce the new presidential mandates. Working with the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the CDC, and the TSA, the executive order asks the Department of HHS to provide these plans within 14 days of the executive order.
Required Quarantine: What We Know So Far
At this point, we do not know how long the quarantine period will be nor do we know exactly how it will be enforced. All we know is that more is coming.
President Biden’s executive order specifically states that international air travelers arriving in the U.S. are “required to comply with other applicable CDC guidelines concerning international travel, including recommended periods of self-quarantine or self-isolation after entry into the United States.”
Currently, the CDC recommends that international travelers get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after traveling. This is in addition to the testing requirement needed to enter the country.
Travelers who follow the testing guideline and receive a negative test result should self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. Travelers who do not get tested upon arriving home should self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
Keep in mind that, until now, the CDC guidelines were just that – guidelines. The new executive order effectively makes them law.
Again, the Secretary of HHS will be reviewing the CDC guidelines and presumably making recommendations on the length of a required quarantine and how it can be enforced. We should know the exact details of these plans in the coming days.
Impact on Domestic Travel
In addition to the new rules governing international air arrivals, President Biden’s executive order also includes an immediate mask mandate for many forms of domestic travel. The order requires masks be worn at airports, on commercial flights, while using public transportation, and more.
Biden’s order also asks for prompt recommendations on imposing further public health measures for domestic travel. This has led to speculation that COVID-19 testing for domestic air travel may be right around the corner.
Reaction and Enforcement
Reaction from the travel industry about the president’s order has been mixed.
Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, stated that the association welcomes the president’s focus on making travel safe. He said the association fully supports the mask mandate and that the CDC’s new testing requirement for inbound travelers is the key to reopening international travel.
In contrast, Dow was highly skeptical about additional domestic travel and international quarantine requirements.
“We believe a mandatory quarantine requirement for international travelers could be extremely difficult to enforce—and unnecessary in light of required testing and the many other protections now in place,” said Dow through a statement.
“In the domestic environment, where there aren’t defined ports of entry for travelers, mandatory testing and other requirements are also impractical and could divert scarce public health resources away from other priorities.”
Members of the Biden team, however, have vowed to enforce the president’s new mandates.
Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation, had this to say during his confirmation hearings last week:
“We are prepared to make sure we use all relevant authorities to enforce the president’s executive order to ensure across every mode of transportation workers, passengers, commuters are protected.”
This is a developing news story.