Keeping up with the new rules.
President Joe Biden has been in office for less than a month, but he has already had a huge impact, with an array of executive orders and reversals of policies. He has halted the construction of the border wall and reversed the travel ban on seven Muslim nations. Just last week, the news of a new task force to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border sent ripples of hope through the country that was dismayed by the 2018 zero-tolerance policy by the Trump administration (628 parents still haven’t found their kids).
One of the key agendas on the President’s desk is COVID-19, which has taken more than 460,000 lives in the country. His mandates to stop the spread are more aggressive than the previous administration’s—backed by research and the advice of health experts—and this is how the new rules will affect travelers.
Masks Are Mandatory
On his first day, President Biden urged Americans to mask up for 100 days to reduce community transmission. Health experts agree that social distancing and face masks will help to bend the curve. In January, the President signed executive actions that made it mandatory to wear masks in federal buildings as well as during interstate travel.
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On January 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order to make masks mandatory for passengers and operators on all public conveyances, including planes, ships, trains, ferries, buses, and taxis, as well as stations, ports, and airports. The order also detailed what would be acceptable (snugly fit mask covering mouth and nose, and a cloth mask with two or more layers) and unacceptable (it’s a no to face shields without masks, bandanas, and turtlenecks pulled over the mouth). White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has even recommended double masking, but the CDC hasn’t made it official yet.
More than 3,000 people in the U.S. have been put on no-fly lists by airlines—while Southwest and American didn’t share their numbers, Delta has banned nearly 1,000 passengers.
The mandate came into effect on February 1 and it’s a huge relief to airlines. Without a federal policy, airlines had introduced their own mask rules last year, but enforcing these proved challenging. Passengers got into scruffles with airline staff and refused to wear masks, resulting in flight delays and even physical fights. Airlines also started kicking out passengers and banned thousands. More than 3,000 people in the U.S. have been put on no-fly lists by airlines—while Southwest and American didn’t share their numbers, Delta has banned nearly 1,000 passengers.
What this means is that it’s not just the airlines that can now pull passengers up for failing to comply. The federal order will be enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at all public transportations and hubs. There are exemptions (kids under two years of age and those with disabilities), but offenders will be fined between $250 and $1,500.
Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator, said in a statement, “TSA will fully comply with the President’s Executive Orders, CDC guidance, and the DHS National Emergency determination to ensure healthy and secure travel across all transportation sectors. This will help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and encourage a unified government response.”
Travel Ban Reinstated
Two days before his term ended, former President Trump had issued a proclamation to lift bans on several countries, which was later rescinded by President Biden.
Now foreign nationals from China, Iran, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City) will not be allowed to enter the United States, with some exemptions.
This order comes in the wake of all the virus variants that are being reported in the U.K., Brazil, and South Africa.
International Travelers Need COVID-19 Test
An executive order by President Biden has made it necessary for all air passengers (above two years of age) flying into the United States to have a negative COVID-19 test. The CDC announced the order on January 12 and it came into effect on January 26.
An executive order by President Biden has made it necessary for all air passengers (above two years of age) flying into the United States to have a negative COVID-19 test.
Yes, it also applies to U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning to the country by air from any destination, along with foreign nationals. The test needs to be conducted no more than three days before the flight and the proof of result will be checked by airlines. The rule also stands for those who have been vaccinated. The CDC also recommends quarantining at home after arrival, though it’s not mandatory.
Travelers don’t need the test for domestic destinations, but some states may require quarantine (like Hawaii) if you don’t have a negative test result. You also don’t need a test to get out of the country, unless destinations (like the U.K.) ask for it.
The U.S. Department of State reminded people to reconsider their non-essential travel plans. So, if you’re planning an international vacation, take into account that you’ll need to identify a test center, account for the cost of the test in your budget, and think about the consequences of testing positive in a foreign country (medical care, finances, accommodation, etc).