The Huge Change The CDC Just Announced For International Air Travelers

If you're planning to travel back to the United States after January 26, know that the CDC has issued a new requirement for people entering the country: a COVID-19 viral test which can detect for a current infection taken no less than 72 hours before departure, plus written proof of a negative result. A properly certified, physical copy of the result also needs to be handed into the airline, otherwise a person will not be allowed to board. 

The new CDC requirement will be implemented along with a second recommended viral test to be taken within three to five days after arrival; returnees will also be required to stay at home for seven days after they travel. These measures are being undertaken to try and stop the spread of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 23 million Americans, and killed more than 380,000 so far (via The New York Times). 

In announcing the new requirement, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said: "Testing does not eliminate all risk, 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."

A similar requirement has been in place for UK travelers to the US

The soon-to-be requirement may come as a surprise for inbound U.S. travelers, but the requirement has been in place for the European Union's member states for some time now (via the Government of the Netherlands). It is also similar to the requirement that the CDC imposed last month on travelers originating from the U.K. and heading into the U.S. During that time, the U.S. had hoped to head off the arrival of a COVID-19 variant, which made the disease more contagious.

CNN says U.S. airlines have welcomed the change; it quoted one airline industry group which reached out to Vice President Mike Pence as saying: "[We are] writing to express our support for a [CDC] proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States."