Anyone Flying to U.S. Must Show Negative Test: CDC

Carolyn Crist

January 13, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Passengers on all flights entering the U.S. will soon be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding the airplane, the CDC announced Tuesday.

Passengers will need to take a test within 3 days of boarding their flight to the U.S. and provide written documentation of their result or recovery from COVID-19. The order will go into effect Jan. 26.
"Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants," according to the CDC statement. "With the U.S. already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public."

A new variant of the coronavirus, called B.1.1.7, was first identified in the U.K. and appears to be more transmissible between humans. By testing samples, 10 states have identified 72 cases of the variant so far, according to a CDC tally updated Monday. California has reported 32 cases, and Florida has reported 22 cases. Other states with confirmed variant cases are Georgia, Indiana, Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New York.

If a passenger doesn’t provide documentation or doesn’t take a test, airlines shouldn’t allow them to board, the CDC said. The agency also recommended that passengers get tested 3 to 5 days after arriving in the U.S. and isolate for 7 days after travel.

The new rule is similar to one that started last month for U.K. passengers flying to the U.S. that requires a negative test within 3 days of flying. Airlines can face criminal penalties if they don’t follow the rule, and passengers can face criminal penalties if they give false or misleading information. Airline industry groups have voiced their support of the new policy, according to CNN.

"Testing does not eliminate all risk," Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC, said in the statement. "But when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations."


CDC: "CDC Expands Negative COVID-19 Test Requirement to All Air Passengers Entering the United States," "US COVID-19 Cases Caused by Variants."

CNN: "CDC to require all air travelers to US to show negative coronavirus test."