The U.S. government requires a negative Covid-19 for anyone – including citizens and residents – to enter the country by air. This was a way to appear to be ‘doing something’ about the virus, but it hasn’t actually protected us against the virus. It might have made sense at the start of the pandemic but the CDC wasn’t prepared to implement measures to keep the virus out. Now, with widespread vaccination, it’s time to end this restriction.
The testing requirement is a joke, it does little to protect us, but it adds costs and uncertainty to travel and impinges on the fundamental right that citizens have to return to their country.
One reader shared their story of shopping for a negative test after several positives. All they needed was one (possibly false) negative to enter the country.
Another recent story is about what testing actually looks like at some resorts in Mexico. Hotels responded rapidly to provide testing to ensure that they’d continue to see a flow of American visitors. But it doesn’t mean the testing is providing any assurance.
At one property the test consisted of,
- A momentary, gentle brush over the inside tip of the nose
- Less than a three minute wait for results
There wasn’t likely much sample to collect, nor enough time to actually evaluate the sample if there had been. But it was enough to get a piece of paper that said negative. Much of it is theater at this point. And now that CDC has lowered the risk level for 110 countries it’s time to drop the theater, too.
- Testing doesn’t keep out people who are Covid-19 positive. The testing requirement applies only to entry into the U.S. by air. It doesn’t apply at other borders.
- Almost any test will do including three day old antigen tests from low quality providers all over the world. So why do we think this provides any kind of assurance?
- Doesn’t stop variants. Variants are already here. The Indian (Delta) variant entered the country even with this requirement in place. It’s now about 10% of cases nationally. And the virus mutates in similar ways around the world, anywhere the virus is prevalent we’ll see variants whether they enter from abroad or not.
- Anyone teen or adult who wants a vaccine can have one. So who are we protecting? Kids who can’t yet get vaccinated are generally at lower risk than vaccinated older Americans. Are we protecting people who have chosen not to get vaccinated? If we’re maintaining restrictions to protect the very small number of immunocompromised people who appear to produce limited antibodies to vaccines we should say so. Otherwise it’s just theater.
- Vaccinated people shouldn’t be tested prior to entry. The CDC exempts those who have recently recovered from the virus from its testing requirement, but not those who have been vaccinated.
The mRNA vaccines are incredibly effective against even asymptomatic infection (being a carrier), according to CDC data. And those who have been vaccinated and somehow do carry the virus aren’t very likely to spread it (for instance because of lower viral loads). That’s why the CDC lifted the mask guidance for vaccinated individuals. They should lift the testing requirement, too.
It’s time to lift the testing requirement, at a minimum for vaccinated U.S. residents.