CDC sets stricter testing requirements for COVID-19 for travelers – Community News
Covid-19

CDC sets stricter testing requirements for COVID-19 for travelers

It’s holiday season, and indefinitely, international travelers looking to enter the United States will need to add one more item to their itineraries: a COVID-19 testing appointment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order on December 2, 2021, changing the requirements regarding a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 for all airline passengers arriving in the United States from any foreign country. The new order requires all travelers wishing to enter the United States, regardless of vaccination status, to show that they have taken a negative COVID-19 test no more than 1 day before departure to the United States. This amended order follows recently announced travel restrictions imposed on travelers from eight South African countries in response to the recently discovered Omicron variant, which has been classified as “a variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. The previous travel policy required fully vaccinated travelers to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before boarding a plane.

The new CDC order applies to: all travelers, including US citizens. The new test requirements came into effect on December 6, 2021. Under the CDC order, all airlines carrying passengers entering the United States from another country must certify that each passenger on board the aircraft, two years or older, has provided evidence of a qualifying negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, such as evidence of a positive COVID-19 test not more than 90 calendar days prior to boarding the flight taken.

Qualifying Test Requirements

The CDC has set out the requirements for acceptable documentation of test results. Only test results containing the following will be accepted:

  • personal identification information (e.g. name and date of birth) on the negative test result (this personal identification information must match the personal identification information on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents);

  • the date on which the sample is collected, which verifies that the sample has not been collected more than one calendar day before the departure of the flight (or the departure date of the first flight in a series of connections booked as part of the same itinerary);

  • an indication that the test is a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or antigen test;

  • a test result marked “NEGATIVE,” “SARS-CoV-2 RNA NOT DETECTED,” “SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN NOT DETECTED,” or “COVID-19 NOT DETECTED,” or with other indications that SARS-CoV-2 was not detected in the individual’s sample (a test marked “invalid” is not acceptable); and

  • information about the entity issuing the test result (e.g., laboratory, healthcare facility, or telehealth service), including the entity’s name and contact information.

Recovery Requirements Documentation

Travelers who have recently recovered from COVID-19 may also provide documentation of positive SARS-CoV-2 viral test results collected no more than 90 calendar days prior to the travelers’ scheduled flights to the United States. A positive COVID-19 test should include:

  • personal identification information (e.g. name and date of birth) on the positive test result (these personal identification information must match the personal identification information on the passenger’s passport or other travel documents);

  • the date on which the sample is collected, verifying that the sample was collected no more than 90 calendar days before the departure of the flight (or the departure date of the first flight in a series of connections booked as part of the same itinerary);

  • an indication that the test is a NAAT or antigen test;

  • a test result marked “POSITIVE,” “SARS-CoV-2 RNA DETECTED,” SARS-CoV-2 ANTIGEN DETECTED, or “COVID-19 DETECTED,” or any other indication that SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the specimen from the individual ( a test marked “invalid” is not acceptable); and

  • information about the entity issuing the test result (e.g., laboratory, healthcare facility, or telehealth service), including the entity’s name and contact information.

In addition, a traveler who has recently recovered from COVID-19 and who wishes to enter the United States by presenting evidence of a recent positive COVID-19 test must provide a signed letter from a licensed healthcare professional or public health official stating that he or she has received permission to travel. The letter must contain personal identification information that matches the traveler’s passport or other travel documents and must be signed and dated on official letterhead with the name, address and telephone number of the health care professional who signed the letter.

The new travel policy took effect for flights departing at or after 12:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on December 6, 2021. The new requirements will remain in effect unless amended or revoked by the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

© 2021, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 341