The White House Spent $2 Billion On Tests, Has No Intention To Stop Requiring Them For Int’l Travel

Requiring a negative Covid-19 test to fly to the U.S. did not stop the Omnicron variant from entering the country, and it didn’t stop the Omicron wave. Requiring testing for travel but not for anything else makes no sense at all. The antigen tests that are accepted are hardly a guarantee against a passenger carrying the virus. We aren’t pursuing an ‘eradication’ policy against Covid like China is. Barely-piecemeal efforts are largely symbolic.

We have tools to protect ourselves from bad outcomes associated with the virus, and to treat it. Hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. There’s simply no public health justification for the requirement at this point.

Nonetheless, White House Covid Advisor Jeff Zients say lifting the testing requirement is off the table.

Lifting the testing requirement followed by a rise in cases (even when unrelated) would make the Biden administration look bad. Placing a requirement on foreign travel plays into our xenophobia, even though readers here understand that it isn’t strictly foreigners who have to test.

And it’s especially awkward to lift the testing requirement right after the Biden administration spent $2 billion distributing tests, even though only some of the tests sent out are even eligible to be used with a paid proctoring service and thus useful for travel.

As I wrote as these tests were being distributed, it’s easier to lift the masking requirement since that involves more domestic travel than international travel. It would take a serious lobbying push by industry to get the Biden administration over the hump. So far they’ve sent a letter.

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. @George – I read the same NYT article. It’s good.
    But – you’re missing the point, imho: when going abroad, we can schedule to do the test in our own doctor’s office (or pharmacy, like CVS, Walgreens, etc.). Up to 3 days before departure. It’s free. When coming back, we’re forced to do it within 24 hrs of departure, which can be stressful, not “mildly inconvenient”; finding a place maybe problematic, takes time, and impacts your plans. It also costs $$$ (we recently paid $30/pp in Europe, $42/pp in So. America, times 4). So there’s a big difference.

    But the main problem, imo – why do we need to test before returning home? What are we trying to achieve? Are we trying to protect the USA from the infection? No, it’s already here. Are we trying to protect fellow travelers? Not really, the air in the airplane is one of the cleanest, and it has been shown there’s practically no chance of getting infected on the plane.

    So, why are we forced to test? No one can give a convincing explanation so far…

  2. @Patti: It’s true. I’ve done two cruises this year to the U.S.

    I had to be tested to get on the ship in the U.k., but no test a week later to enter the U.S.

  3. @Gennady: Then you bought the wrong one.

    See store.optum.com/shop/products/abbott-binaxNOW-COVID-19-ag-at-home-test-kit-2-pack/

  4. @1KBrad

    Thanks.

    But you had to be tested to get on the ship which isn’t much different than being tested to get on the plane.

    Nobody has to do a test upon arrival that I’m aware of.

  5. @Patti: That is the cruise lines requirement, not a requirement to enter the U.S.

    That cruise line test was not taken within 1-day of arrival into the U.S.

  6. Anyone who thinks requiring antigen tests 24 hrs before travel back to US is “science” or “evidence” is just as dumb as these politicians and bureaucrats.

    — Gennady

    Such nonsense. I guess you also believe that the pandemic threat has simply abated on its own, and all the mitigation measures that were put in place were just useless nuisance. That’s dumb.

    До свидания , Gennady !

  7. Hugely frustrating. They are not “following the science” in any way, shape or form with this. Of course the Trump Administration banned the Euros and Brits pointlessly early in the pandemic and the Biden Administration took 10 months to end that ban. Both Presidents have been terrible xenophobes. It cost me $90 and a waste of a good part of my last day of travel to meet this requirement a couple of weeks ago. If that had a health benefit it would be money well spent. But it is all political.

  8. Both Presidents have been terrible xenophobes. It cost me $90 and a waste of a good part of my last day of travel to meet this requirement a couple of weeks ago. If that had a health benefit it would be money well spent. But it is all political.

    @ DaveS — Such nonsense. To MAGA adherents, everything is political so they ‘project’ that mentality onto the current administration. Biden is no ‘xenophobe’ !!! The Orange-haired crook was defeated and tossed out of the people’s White House, which is now occupied by descent and knowledgeable adults. There is simply no comparison.Time to change your distorted worldview!

    I guess you also believe that the pandemic threat has simply abated on its own, and all the mitigation measures that were put in place were just useless nuisance. That’s dumb.

  9. @DSC said: “”you also believe that threat has simply abated on its own, and all the mitigation measures that were put in place were just useless nuisance.”
    No. The threat has “abated” because of vaccines. Everyone who wants to get vaccinated, can. Those who don’t want to, won’t. We got heard immunity. And the virus is getting less deadly.

    Mitigation measures? Some were useful, but MOST were kabuki theater, public performance to appear to be doing something.

    I noticed you didn’t answer the salient questions? Clearly, because you can’t. Слабак!

  10. @DCS: Let me guess, you still wear a face mask when driving in your own car. Alone.

    Why don’t you do something useful and explain how requiring a negative test within a day of departure for the U.S. is helpful?

  11. @DCS, I voted for Biden to get rid of the orange-headed crook, and in many ways he is much better. but on this question he is not. It took until November until he would let in British and European travelers although it had been abundantly clear for well over a year at that point that excluding specifically them was of no value at all. He put in this 24-hour testing requirement which Gary has ably explained has no value. If I had to vote between the two again, I’d vote for Biden because I think Trump is despicable, but I don’t feel that means I have to defend every decision he makes.

  12. @George

    1) The Binax Navica test is proctored remotely and completely acceptable for all airlines and linked directly to a booking with AA, DL, and others. Look into it. I don’t go anywhere without them and always have an extra for irregular operations which have almost become the norm these days.

    2 and 3) I can’t disagree that it states very clearly on the CDC website what the rules are, and I know that personally because I pulled them up on my phone to show the Gate Supervisor who told me flatly that she couldn’t care less and that everybody who had taken their test the day before that they would have to retest. You can believe that or not, but if you fly Jet Blue you certainly would given their bizarrely imperious employees.

    Even had this provision been followed, it was still prudent to retest because the flight was originally scheduled for 5:20 p.m. and rescheduled the next day for (variously) 2:00 or 4:38 p.m. With at least a 21 hour delay, it was hardly inconceivable that the flight would leave a an hour or more later than the current scenario, which very well could have put us over the limit even had this ridiculously arbitrary rule been followed correctly.

    And while you consider retesting a “minor inconvenience” that is very far from true and it could be that your inability to put yourself in the shoes of others is why you lack compassion or consideration for the people put out by this. Imagine being in an airport well out of town, without any public and little private transportation, in the middle of the night, and needing to arrange for a test that would give you a result in time to board a flight at 2:00 the next afternoon. Now imagine that but being elderly or in a wheelchair as many of the passengers were. And all for what other than to satisfy the hubris of some politicians and people like you? And so you can test negative to still where a mask in a plane where everybody has tested as negative! Good grief!!

  13. The threat has “abated” because of vaccines. — Gennady

    Not quite. Vaccines alone, since their effectiveness against variants of the virus that they were not specifically designed for could be lower, would not have brought us as quickly to where we are now — and allow ignoramuses like those commenting in this space to declare the threat gone — had it not been for other measures, like, yes, testing and masking. Because it is a multi-dimensional problem, the most prudent solution is a step-wise approach:

    1. vaccinate as many people as possible,while requiring masking and testing (we are beyond this now)
    2. After sufficiently large numbers of people have been vaccinated, ease some of the other measures progressively rather than all at once — so, in the US, masking requirements are being dropped, while testing remains.
    3. Once we see what happens after people have stopped wearing masks for a while and things are promising, recommend dropping testing – that is where are headed, barring another infection flare-up.

    Therefore, the noise here just reflects ignorance. Fortunately, it is just noise and a masturbatory exercise of the mind to make dimwits commenting in this space feel good, and it has absolutely no influence on public healthcare policy whatsoever.

  14. @DaveS — You are wrong. Look at the data. The British and European travelers have seen increases in infection cases while new cases have been falling like rocks in the US.

    Biden keeping the European our had nothing to do with xenophobia. It was based on the best advice of people being paid taxpayers money precisely to give the president such advice. Trump, on the other hand was a xenophobic, misogynistic, narcissistic, racist and megalomaniacal head case.

  15. @DCS: Democratic idiocy.

    If there was any legitimacy to your insupportable statements, we’d have pre-testing on domestic flights, but we don’t.

    Wake up and see what a load of crap this all is.

  16. @DCS: ” The British and European travelers have seen increases in infection cases while new cases have been falling like rocks in the US.”
    First of all, who cares about cases? This ship has sailed. It was wrong to look at it before, and it’s especially incorrect to look at it now. Tell me about number of deaths, or number of hospitalizations…number of cases is meaningless indicator.
    Second, no one knows why US has no spike, while other parts of the world do. Read today’s NYT David Leonhardts’ column. This clearly has nothing to do with mitigation since as I’m sure you know, there are no more masks requirements anywhere in the country, but on public transport now…and we have NOTHING happening…

    But I’m sure you think the pandemic is still going on. Because for you, it will never end. Ever. Othewise, G-d forbid, the population will get from under your control.

  17. @DCS: “Biden keeping the European our had nothing to do with xenophobia. It was based on the best advice of people being paid taxpayers money precisely to give the president such advice.”

    Precisely! The idiots like Fauchi, one of the “people being paid taxpayers money” who lied his way into prominence and popularity. Did he not say not to wear masks because they don’t work? What happened to the herd immunity at 50-60% vaccination of the population? We’re at 80-85% of adults vaccinated, and Fauchi npw forgot how to spell “herd immunity”.

    These “people being paid taxpayers money” failed us, spectacularly. They became famous and wealthy, they got to control millions. Zaentz is another one of these irresponsible morons who speaks from both sides of his mouth.

    Can’t wait for him and the rest of that crowd to disappear.

  18. Who can we email or send letters to for dropping the testing for U. S. citizens when returning from international travel. It should be dropped for U.S. citizens. Enough! Please provide information if you have it., Thanks in advance!

  19. @DCS: I know when I am speaking with a Democrat. When they won’t, and can’t, defend their positions they start the name calling.

    I didn’t vote for Trump (nor Biden), but I would sure vote for Trump tomorrow over this worthless, clueless idiot we have in the White House now.

    Biden hasn’t done one single thing in regards to Covid that Trump didn’t start.

    Your continued failure to even try and defend your position speaks truckloads about the depth of your intelligence.

    Looking forward to November. You won’t be.

  20. DCS appears to be playing some type of perverted “parlor game”. See how much ridiculous nonsense he can spew and then tally up the responses to his ignorant posts.

    I mean it’s not possible that someone can still believe all the falsehoods brought forth during this scam.

  21. Cahn’t make this stuff up!

    I hit all the trigger points and, like Pavlovian dogs, the crazies are out of MAGAland and howling at the full moon, thinking it is cheesecake!

    Fauchi ouchi; Dems are stupid; blah, blah, blah…

    I have enunciated my position without “defending” whatever you believe that position is. Fortunately, your howling at an imaginary full moon in the dark recesses of travel blogosphere has no effect whatsoever on public policy, which is being set by among the best qualified public servants in the world, including Biden and “Fauchi ouchi”.

    Vote Trump back in office and you’d better learn to speak Russian because America will be pulled out of NATO and become an appendage and mirror image of Putin’s Russia, after Trump completes what he tried but failed to accomplish during the 4 extremely long years of his worst-in-the-history-of-the-republic presidency .

    I am outta here. Cahn’t keep feeding the crazies. Your soapbox, knock yourselves out.

  22. @James N – You got it…but exactly backwards! The perverted “parlor game” was designed to elicit the spewing of the craziest MAGAland drivel and, as you can see, it worked…beyond my wildest dream!

    G’day!

  23. Nice to see a lib lose the argument and run away, tail b/w his legs, throwing some personal insults as he departs. Ciao, дурачок! Make sure you wear the mask 24/7.

  24. I got the iHealth kits from the free giveaway. For additional $25 they can be proctored and used to come home. I am using that for my trip next week.

  25. @DCS @Genady You both talk like you know everything, but you could at least make an effort to spell correctly. It is Dr. Fauci and Jeff Zients.

  26. @Angel – Thank you for a very valuable contribution to the discussion! [/sarcasm]

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