an empty airport with escalators and a large building
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

End Pre-Departure Testing, Urge Mayors of Cities in the United States

The mayors add to the increasing chorus of people...

In addition to the mayors of Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia who have written and sent their own letters, a bipartisan group of mayors of 38 cities in the United States have sent a joint open letter to the coronavirus response coordinator of The White House asking for the requirement of testing inbound international passengers who have been fully vaccinated to be terminated as soon as possible.

End Pre-Departure Testing, Urge Mayors of Cities in the United States

“More than 40 nations have recently lifted pre-departure testing requirements without negatively impacting public health”, according to this official press release from U.S. Travel Association. “While nearly all other aspects of the economy have reopened without a testing requirement, inbound air travel for vaccinated individuals remains an outlier. For example, the U.S. government does not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test at U.S. land border ports of entry.”

Coordinated by U.S. Travel Association, the letter has been replicated below verbatim — with the exception of the listing of all signatories:

Dr. Ashish Jha
Coronavirus Response Coordinator
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

June 7, 2022

Dear Dr. Jha:

We strongly urge you to repeal the federal inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers to the United States. This requirement makes little sense considering that nearly all other sectors of the U.S. economy are operating without a testing requirement. Stronger immunity provided by vaccinations, boosters and prior infections, as well as effective treatments to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19, have enabled Americans to safely return to work, schools and public activities—all without the need for a testing requirement. Given the slow economic recovery of cities across America—and considering the abundance of public health measures we have at our disposal—we strongly encourage you to immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers.

American cities are still struggling to regain international visitors after more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions. In 2021, international visitation was a staggering 78% below pre- pandemic levels. Our constituents and our businesses suffered greatly from this steep decline in international travel spending, and they cannot fully recover until this vital sector of the U.S. economy rebounds. A new survey of vaccinated international travelers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan and India found that the pre-departure testing requirement is a deterrent to travel. More than half of international travelers (54%) said the added uncertainty of having to cancel a trip due to U.S. pre-departure testing requirements would significantly impact their likelihood to visit the U.S.; and a large majority of adults surveyed (71%) agreed that they prioritize traveling to destinations without cumbersome entry requirements. The pre-departure testing requirement is also a deterrent to vaccinated Americans traveling abroad, as many fear being unable to return to the U.S. Many foreign governments with similar infection, vaccination and hospitalization rates—including the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada—have already eliminated pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated travelers.

The time has come for the United States to do the same. The current policy is neither wise nor effective. It’s time to repeal these requirements and to return power back to our people. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Greater than 260 entities — which include airlines, airport authorities multinational lodging companies, cruise lines, national associations, convention and visitors bureaus, and companies — had sent a joint open letter to the coronavirus response coordinator of The White House last month asking for the requirement of testing inbound international passengers who have been fully vaccinated to be terminated as soon as possible; and senior leaders from both Airlines for America and U.S. Travel Association had a meeting at the White House on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at which they once again reiterated and stressed the need for the administration to end the pre-departure testing requirement for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus for travelers who are fully vaccinated.

Airlines for America is a trade group which represents the commercial aviation industry in the United States; while U.S. Travel Association is the national non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry that generated $1.5 trillion in economic output and supported 11 million jobs in the year 2020. The mission of U.S. Travel Association is to increase travel to and within the United States.

The administration of Joseph Biden — who is the current president of the United States —has offered no sign of consideration in terms of rescinding the requirement of testing of inbound international passengers who travel by airplane to the United States at the time this article was written: “So, we’re constantly evaluating our policy”, Karine Jean-Pierre — who is the current press secretary for the White House — responded, as shown in this official video. “The pre-departure testing requirement remains in place, as we have it today. And any decision on pre-departure testing requirement would be made by our health and medical experts”, noting that she does not “have anything more to share from here.”

petition was launched at three months ago calling for the United States to eliminate testing requirements for incoming travelers who are vaccinated — but that petition only has 16 signatures at the time this article was written.

Final Boarding Call

At least 63 countries and territories around the world no longer require testing for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — nor do they require quarantine or isolation — regardless of the vaccination status of inbound international passengers. That list has been steadily increasing, as the negative impact on public health has been minimal at worst.

As the pandemic appears to be phasing into endemic status, the United States should be one of those countries on that list. The time to expeditiously terminate the inbound testing requirement for all international air travelers is long overdue, in my opinion — especially as no uniform standard of testing in terms of locations and costs currently exists, which creates confusion and consternation among passengers — and seeing the growing chorus of people stressing how urgent is doing so gives increasing hope that perhaps this requirement will be rescinded sooner than later…

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

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