House Group Calls on Biden to Exempt Vaxxed Travelers From Test Rule

A bipartisan group of 16 Congressmembers on Monday called on President Joe Biden to exempt fully vaccinated travelers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current one-day COVID testing requirement for entry to the U.S. According to the office of Representative Lou Correa, who led the group, “exempting vaccinated travelers from the testing requirement would support states’ economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by removing the travel barriers and would allow for better coordinated travel nationwide and internationally.”

Correa, whose district in California includes Disneyland and Angel Stadium, said in a press statement, “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a long-term impact on the travel and tourist industry in our country. Travel is a critical component of the economy of my district, and despite the changes of COVID-19 travel restrictions, travel to and from the United States continues to be challenging. Travelers are scared of being stranded abroad and having their vacation plans wrecked, which is preventing the revival of our domestic travel and tourism industries. It is past time for our testing criteria to be brought into line with those used by other countries.”

In the letter to President Biden, the group noted the stricter, 24-hour testing requirement was put into place in the wake of the discovery of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which came at the same time as a ban on travelers from eight countries in southern Africa. This latter enforcement has since been removed. The letter added, “it is unclear to us whether at this stage in the pandemic this rule is having any meaningful impact on the spread of COVID-19 from overseas destinations to the U.S. … COVID is widespread throughout the U.S. and attempts to control its importation via air travel under today’s circumstances are unlikely to change that fact.”

The letter continues to note that, according to the CDC, “the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19…is for individuals to get vaccinated.” By exempting the nearly 215 million Americans who are fully vaccinated, the administration’s regulations would be consistent with the scientific consensus. It would also incentivize those who are not vaccinated to consider becoming so.

Trade Response

“We commend Congressman Correa and all of his colleagues who signed onto this important letter for recognizing that the CDC’s pre-departure testing rule is the single biggest barrier to the full recovery of the international travel system on which so many of their constituents in the travel industry rely,” said Eben Peck, American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) executive vice president for advocacy. “Making the commonsense change these legislators are calling for is widely supported by stakeholders throughout the industry and would match changes our main outbound markets have recently made, including the U.K., E.U., Canada and Australia. It would also supercharge the recovery of the travel agency business, as some of the more than 215 million Americans who have been putting off international travel because of this rule call their travel advisor and get ready to go.”

ASTA says it worked closely with Representative Correa’s office to gather signatures for the letter to President Biden over the past few weeks, with the following Members of Congress signing on to yesterday’s letter: Reps. Maria Salazar, Jimmy Panetta, Ken Buck, Jim Costa, Harold Rogers, Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus Co-Chair Dina Titus, Brian Fitzpatrick, Susie Lee, Caucus Co-Chair Gus Bilirakis, Markwayne Mullin, Carlos Gimenez, John Katko, Mark Amodei, David Valadao and Larry Bucshon.

Over the past few months, ASTA has petitioned the White House directly for this change, sending a letter of its own to the administration in February. ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby followed that up with an article on LinkedIn reiterating the previous points.

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