WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats cheered President Joe Biden for demanding proof of COVID-19 vaccination from international travelers coming to the United States, and now they’ve asked him to do the same for domestic travelers.
Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are among 36 Democrats who wrote a letter to the president on Thursday asking him for proof of vaccinations or negative COVID-19 test results before boarding a domestic flight.
Lawmakers hope to have this implemented before the holidays to reduce the chances of America getting another brutal winter wave.
“Implementation of these science-based requirements is critical to reducing the transmission risk of COVID-19 to passengers, crew members and U.S. destination communities,” the letter reads. “Applying similar strategies to domestic air travel would ensure Americans can travel safely to see their loved ones during the holidays, while also limiting the household introduction and spread of COVID-19 through visiting family and friends.
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Currently, domestic travelers are subject to a federal mask mandate on airplanes, trains and buses. Testing is not a requirement, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing no more than three days before your trip.
People who are sick with an illness, have been exposed to COVID-19, have tested positive for the virus or are awaiting the results of a coronavirus test are asked not to travel.
A traveler takes a photo of a COVID-19 test board at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) amid travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on February 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo
Democrats bolstered their case by pointing to the success vaccine mandates have had in the private sector. Such mandates became widespread this summer during the delta wave.
Since schools, businesses and venues have required visitors to prove their vaccination status or show a negative test, the US has seen a significant drop in cases. And the country’s vaccination rate increased during that time.
“Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that unvaccinated people would be significantly more likely to be fully vaccinated if flying on an airplane was a requirement,” the letter reads. “It is in our nation’s public health interest to apply these vaccination requirements for U.S. air travel.
Democrats also claimed the vaccine mandate would benefit the tourism and hospitality industries, which suffered major financial losses as the pandemic began. Witnesses told the Senate Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion Committee that domestic business spending this year is expected to be only 57% of 2019 levels.
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Aviators alone lost $35 billion in 2020. And the travel and tourism sectors are not estimated to reach pre-pandemic levels for another four years.
“Recovery of these industries will only happen when U.S. travelers can be confident that they are safe during indoor activities, including while travelling, whether at airports or on the plane itself,” the letter said.
This story was reported from Atlanta.