U.S. Will Require Quarantine In Addition To Testing For All Inbound International Travelers

President Biden announced that in addition to the testing requirement going into effect January 26th for passengers arriving in the U.S. off of international flights, there will be a quarantine requirement as well.

The details of the quarantine rule haven’t been published yet – who it applies to (for instance, already airline crew are exempt from testing) and how long it will last.

It’s possible that the quarantine isn’t in addition to testing as Biden laid out, but in lieu of, since there are constitutional problems denying the right of entry to U.S. citizens. However taking Biden’s statement as-intended, it’s unlikely to be enforced. The CDC’s track record handling international arriving passengers during the pandemic is very poor and it’s unlikely they can improve overnight. There’s also not a good enough data handoff of passengers lists to local health departments or state authorities to follow up.

The virus is already rapidly spreading in the U.S. A testing and quarantine requirement won’t change that. The concern now is over mutations in the virus, many of which have occurred overseas, entering the U.S. The U.K. B.1.1.7 variant is already here, and perhaps 1% of current infections. It’s expected to become 40% of infections by March.

We don’t have the genomic surveillance in place that the U.K. has so we simply don’t know what variations are occurring in the SARS-CoV-2 virus here in the U.S. So when you hear something like “the South Africa variant hasn’t been detected yet” know that this is as likely a function of lack of looking for it as it not being here.

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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  1. As an international flight paramedic this looks to be an absolute nightmare for our staff. Leave it to the new administration to take away more freedom and impose more onerous rules on people despite zero data that this will help anything.

  2. If they can’t track down thousands upon thousands of visa overstays, they sure as hell aren’t going to be able to enforce a federal quarantine mandate

  3. Not sure about quarantines being unconstitutional for US citizens. The quarantine would occur after they enter the country.

  4. Biden is correct. Lock people up for 10-14 days upon arrival. The exception should be Canadians. Ban them. Canada currently bans all Americans. They say they exempt “essential travel” but they deem true essential travel as non-essential and non-essential travel (truckers and air crew and spouses) as essential. Reciprocity is the key.

    Biden should do it because he already gave Canada the third finger by stopping Keystone XL without the consultation that Canada requested 2 days ago. He should give them the third finger using his other hand.

  5. Make it so that all international flights can only arrive into select airports across the country and have the government run quarantine facilities like they do in other countries (ex. S Korea, Australia). Helps out hotels nearby the airports with the added business and there is no need to worry about people breaking the rules.

  6. I just wish Biden can order enough doses from Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneca so everyone in the USA who wants the vaccine can get it. To me, that’s what makes the most sense in terms of helping bring back some normalcy to the country.

  7. Guys there will be no “old normalcy” ever. Just get it. Tragic events of September 11th were almost 20 years ago but we still have all the theatrics with removing shoes, belts, testing toothpaste AND throwing bottles of water from our carry on worldwide…..

    Just get used to “new normalcy”: facemasks, shutdowns, closed borders, etc.

  8. It will be interesting to see if this would survive a court challenge. SCOTUS has ruled that the government may quarantine those who have been proven to be contagious however in this case the quarantined individuals not only have not been proven to be contagious but have actually tested negative for the virus in question. The power to lock up people based on a very small chance that they may be contagious is far different than the power to lock up someone who certainly is.

  9. I imagine Canadian snowbirds won’t be happy. Currently Canadian can fly to the US without having to quarantine. Meanwhile, most Americans aren’t allowed to enter Canada even if they complete a 14 day quarantine after arrival.

  10. He said he was going to do something.
    This is something
    Therefore, we must do this.

    He’s a politician, it doesn’t matter whether it makes sense.

  11. I’m taking an international trip next month. They can order all the quarantines they want, let’s see them enforce it XD.

  12. besides the testing requirement and the quarantine requirement did you mention the mask wearing requirement? That should help a lot don’t you think?
    Also, aren’t many other countries already requireing a quarantine period for international travel, like the US did for travellers from china early on?
    I think these new measures while useful and sound are largely too little too late, and we are going to be severely affected and our national economy extremely damaged by this virus in the months ahead. Even with the vaccines.

  13. Makes no sense – the US is already the worst in the world in handling COVID-19, and the virus is deep in. The issue is not visitors from outside, it’s that many Americans refuse to wear masks, distance. So what good does this do except frustrate tourists and business people.

    Thanks a lot Sleepy!

  14. @Joey – the biggest thing is vaccines, true, but there aren’t more doses to order in Q1. And soon enough we’re likely to have more doses than people who get off their bum to go get it. So the challenge will be motivating people to get vaccinated.

  15. So if you are returning to the US from an international vacation or coming to the US on vacation or say walking across the border illegally you will be required to have a negative test AND quarantine. Got it. I assume KLM has this figured out based on their recent moves. I think if I was an airline I’d just shutdown all my international routes for now and wait it out.

  16. Won’t matter. It won’t be enforced. I haven’t quarantined after any of my trips even though my state requires it.
    I couldn’t believe when a friend of mine cancelled a trips because they would have been required to quarantine after returning home. Lunacy!

  17. The feds should just condition a stimulus payment on proof of vaccination, and then people will rush to get vaccinated in 2021 even if it were to come with a needle to their bare tushy instead of the needle to an exposed arm.

  18. I think the proposal has some merit — other countries who have been more adept at getting the virus under control have quarantines (e.g., Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, China). HOWEVER, this requirement is only helpful if there it is done in conjunction with coordinated and effective efforts domestically to get the virus under control, e.g., everyone wears masks, contact tracing, distancing. Otherwise, it is purely a symbolic gesture that doesn’t add anything other than annoyance to inbound travellers.

  19. @Brian
    Callously boasting about evading a mandatory state quarantine… truly impressive! You must be so proud.

  20. @DaninMCI
    “So if you are returning to the US from an international vacation or coming to the US on vacation or say walking across the border illegally you will be required to have a negative test AND quarantine.”

    No, those crossing the border illegally will be totally exempt from any COVID related restrictions. After all, they are deemed essential to boost the emerging democrat voting block in America.

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