The Biden administration is debating whether to impose domestic travel curbs as part of an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, according to a Wednesday report.
The Miami Herald writes:
Outbreaks of the new variants — including a highly contagious one first identified in the United Kingdom, as well as others from South Africa and Brazil that scientists worry can evade existing vaccines — have lent urgency to a review of potential travel restrictions within the United States, one federal official said. […] Two federal government officials underscored that no policy announcements are imminent, and that any move to restrict travel or impose new health measures would be taken in partnership with state and local governments. The U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7, has recently exploded in Florida, where over a third of all cases in the United States have been identified.
“There are active conversations about what could help mitigate spread here, but we have to follow the data and what’s going to work. We did this with South Africa, we did this with Brazil, because we got clear guidance,” a Biden White House official told the news outlet.
“Governor DeSantis opposes travel restrictions and does not believe diagnostic tests should be a prerequisite to domestic air travel,” a spokesperson for the Florida governor told the news outlet.
The Biden White House has not commented publicly on the matter.
The report comes after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed that officials are reviewing whether to require travellers provide proof of a negative coronavirus test in order to board domestic flights. Speaking Sunday with Axios on HBO, Buttigieg revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in “active conversation” regarding the possible requirement.
“What I can tell you is it’s going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out,” the Biden Cabinet member said. “But here’s the thing: The safer we can make air travel in terms of perception as well as reality, the more people are going to be ready to get back in the air.”
In an interview with CNN. Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian called the idea floated by Buttigieg a “horrible” one and “logistical nightmare.”
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly also slammed the idea in a Tuesday letter to President Joe Biden.
“On behalf of the management and unions at Southwest Airlines, we respectfully ask your administration to refrain from imposing any federal mandate to require a pre-departure COVID-19 test for air travel within the United States,” Kelly wrote. “We believe such a mandate would be counterproductive, costly, and have serious unintended consequences, including for millions of people who have travel needs but may not have access to testing resources and for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on a stable air travel industry.”
The CDC recently implemented a rule mandating all travellers on U.S.-bound international flights must show a negative coronavirus test.
As of Wednesday, the U.S. registered 27.2 million total virus cases and roughly 468,000 deaths, according to data complied by the New York Times.