Globe Aware volunteers flying within the United States may soon need to prove they're likely COVID-free if a proposed bill becomes law. This is in hopes of reducing a potential surge this coming winter.
Domestic flyers may need to show proof of vaccination if Senate bill passes
BAILEY SCHULZ AND DAWN GILBERTSON
September 30, 2021
Domestic flyers within the United States may soon need to prove they're likely COVID-free if a proposed bill Wednesday becomes law.
The U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, introduced by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would require all U.S. passengers to be fully vaccinated, fully recovered or test negative for the coronavirus before boarding a domestic flight.
"We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge," Feinstein said in a Wednesday news release. "We simply cannot allow that to happen again."
While testing and or showing proof of vaccination is common for international air travel, domestic U.S. air passengers do not go through the same level of scrutiny.
The bill builds upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current air travel requirement, which has passengers traveling to the U.S. from a foreign country show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of recovery from COVID-19.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Public Health Association support the additional requirements for domestic air travel, according to the release.
"Vaccination is a critical strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccination requirements in multiple settings are an important mechanism to boost vaccination rates, prevent infections and hospitalizations and save lives," Barbara Alexander, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and professor of medicine and pathology at Duke University School of Medicine, said in the release.
Various health experts have expressed support for vaccine mandates on flights. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser and the nation's top infectious disease expert, said in an interview with The Skimm in September that passengers should also be subject to a vaccine mandate in order to fly.
When asked about travel restrictions in a COVID-19 briefing in September, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response team coordinator, said nothing is off the table. He pointed to the government's move to double the fines for passengers who refuse to follow the federal mask mandate on planes and other public transportation.
But airlines say vaccine mandates could pose logistical issues, with airlines tasked with figuring out the vaccination status for millions of passengers. Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said it would "bottleneck the domestic travel system" in an interview with "CBS This Morning" in late August.
The U.S. Travel Association, which promotes travel to the United States, released a statement against vaccine mandates for domestic flights on Sept. 13.
"U.S. Travel has long maintained that there should be no mandatory vaccination requirement for domestic travel," Tori Emerson Barnes, the group's executive president said in a statement. "Such a policy would have an unfair, negative impact on families with young children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine."
The bill would also let the Secretary of Health and Human Services develop national COVID-19 vaccination standards and procedures for domestic air travel to prevent future outbreaks and have the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices make recommendations for vaccine use in health care settings.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.