One popular way to meet the negative Covid-19 test requirement for returning to the U.S. by air is eMed which administers an at-home BinaxNOW self-test that you can pack and take with you on your trip.
However traveler reports suggest that their system is melting down. You aren’t allowed to just take the test yourself, it has to be overseen online. And wait times are stretching into the hours.
Trying to get a “Certified Guide” and get the test done. Been holding online for more than three hours now. Called three times as well and all they say is sorry, high call volume, we’re backed up.
Looks like we will be up all night trying to get an Abbot/Navica guide online to do the tests for flight tomorrow, and from the looks of it, may not happen in which case we are out of pocket for a rapid test at the airport.
There are even reports of wait times stretching as long as six hours.
CDC guidelines instruct airlines only to accept at-home tests that have FDA emergency use authorization and are administered along with a telemedicine video call during which someone authorized by the manufacturer oversees the testing. I suspect most people think this must be a doctor, or other U.S. medical professional, but it’s not. It’s someone in an overseas call center.
Some are speculating, ironically, that Covid-19 test administration may be delayed by Covid-19 lockdowns (in the Philippines) limiting the number of call center employees available.
There are several things to do to make sure you aren’t caught out without a test result to allow you to travel to the U.S.
- Start your test three days in advance of travel. If you’re on a non-stop flight to the U.S. (it may need to be closer-in if you are connecting, because the result needs to be three days prior to your actual flight to the U.S.). Give yourself as much time as possible to complete the process in case of any hiccups. That’s not great from a public health standpoint, since the further out from travel you are the less likely it reflects your infection status when you actually fly. But it’s beter for meeting the rules.
- Request consult in Spanish. One traveler’s experience is this is a great workaround for long wait times.
Go to the main Emed website, scroll to the very bottom of the page. Look to the left hand side for language choice of English or Spanish, choose Spanish. Navigate your way through the menus (in spanish). Our queue this morning was about 15-20 min. They still speak fluent english. Successfully tested. Total time 45 min all-in.
- Be prepared to pay for another test. Having the test with you and doing it in your room is a great solution in theory. But if you find wait times interminable, remember that it’s a sunk cost. If you need to get home, you may have to go get and pay for another test. Be aware of where those are available at your destination, locally such as through your hotel or a pharmacy or at the airport upon your return (less desirable, leave plenty of time, and of course you could be surprised by the result).
Covid-19 self-tests, to be allowed for travel back to the U.S., must be overseen by a foreign call center employee. But wait times for call center employees may stretch into the hours. Be prepared, and consider a work-around.