A new mask mandate, negative COVID tests and a lifted travel ban.
[Updated 02 24 2021]
Within his first few days as the 46th President of the United States of America, Joe Biden implemented a new set of state-side COVID-19 travel regulations.
After rescinding the ban that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States, he continued rolling out executive orders related to tourism to create stricter COVID-19 regulations.
As a part of his Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce, masks are now required in National Parks and at monuments, memorials, and historic sites that are a part of the federal lands. The executive order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel requires face masks on all modes of interstate transportation within the States, including flights, buses, ships, and trains as well as in airports. While U.S. airlines have already been requiring passengers to wear masks, this is the first time there’s been a federally mandated mask policy during the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the early January policy requiring negative COVID-19 tests for arriving travelers, all passengers arriving into the United States will now be required to quarantine. The administration has stated that anyone coming into the United States by air, “will need to test before they get onto that plane before they depart and quarantine when they arrive in America.”
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement that "we welcome the president’s focus on policies that will encourage safe travel and help restore the millions of U.S. travel jobs that were lost last year... and we also strongly support the president’s mask mandate for interstate travel, which is in line with the industry’s health and safety guidance.”
The COVID-19 travel executive order went into effect on January 26th. However, the White House has yet to release a statement regarding the length of the mandatory quarantine period for incoming visitors. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the Coast Guard are all expected to provide recommendations on the quarantine length within the next week, in addition to a plan to handle fraudulent tests and entry for passengers arriving from countries where tests aren’t easily accessible.
Some medical professionals support the comprehensive plan. For instance, Bob Bacheler, a critical care flight nurse said “President Biden’s policies are merely bringing the United States closer to the rest of the world’s standards. Every country I’ve entered has required had some form of COVID-19 testing. Some were as simple as a temperature check and a document indicating travel history (Mexico) to being met at the airport by people in full PPE and receiving a Covid test at the airport (Togo). When I’d return to the US, I’d pass through customs and never speak to anyone or have anyone ask where I had been.”
Cherene Saradar, a travel blogger and a nurse anesthetist who has been working with COVID-19 patients, reflected a similar sentiment saying that she’d like to see stricter requirements for those traveling domestically.
Lola Méndez is a sustainable travel advocate who writes the responsible lifestyle blog Miss Filatelista.