All travelers, regardless of vaccination or citizenship status, will soon be subject to new regulations.
Previously, only unvaccinated individuals were required to show a negative test 24 hours prior to departure, while those that were vaccinated had to show a negative test within 72 hours.
The changes come as part of Biden’s winter plan to combat COVID-19 as cases of the Omicron variant were detected in the U.S. this week.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the travel requirements on Thursday, posting an amended order issuing a change to the COVID-19 testing requirement to one day before air travel into the U.S.
“As the virus that causes Covid-19 spreads, it has new opportunities to change (mutate) and become more difficult to control,” the CDC says in this newly revised order. “While it is known and expected that viruses change through mutation leading to the emergence of new variants, the emergent Omicron variant is particularly concerning and of critical significance for this Amended Order.”
Tests approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are acceptable for use, the order says. People who can show they have recovered from infection within the past 90 days are exempt.
“At this time, it is unknown what level of protection current vaccines will provide against this newly emergent mutated variant,” the order reads. “To best protect the health of the United States, unless and until CDC can confirm that current approved and authorized vaccines provide adequate protection against the Omicron variant, all passengers — including those who are fully vaccinated, but excluding passengers who present a valid Documentation of Recovery — must obtain a viral test on a specimen collected no more than 1 calendar day before their flight’s departure to meet the requirements of this Amended Order.
“The one-day time window, a reduction from the previous 3-day window for fully vaccinated passengers, will provide less opportunity to develop infection with the Omicron variant prior to arrival into the United States.”
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the country has better tools now and is in a much better place to tackle new variants.
She also said in a recent interview, “As you note, we’ve seen Omicron in about five states now, and we’re continuing to do investigations with other states as probable cases emerge. But what we can say, based on what these cases are showing, some have mild disease, some may have more severe disease, many of them are vaccinated. So, we still have a lot of science to do to understand how these vaccines are working against Omicron.”
This new order is set to take effect Dec. 6 and impact travel across the U.S.