Face masks are mandated on planes.
COVID-19 vaccination “passports” could be coming.
And in a rare bipartisan clampdown, President Joe Biden has retained a rule from former President Donald Trump’s tenure requiring international travelers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights to America.
It’s a moving target, but here’s the latest on flying under the new administration.
On Jan. 21, Biden ordered mask wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on airplanes and in airports.
There’s rejoicing in the cockpit, said commercial pilot Dennis Tajer of Arlington Heights.
“We’ve been asking for federal mandate since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association representing American Airlines pilots. “It always means more when it’s a federal mandate versus just a company policy. This mandate backs up flight crews if there is a deliberately noncompliant passenger, and ensures other passengers are protected.”
The group FlyersRights.org also cheered that “finally, the Department of Transportation is set to promulgate reasonable rules with the force of law to make air travel safer during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Last Tuesday, a federal order was imposed that means all international “travelers are going to be required to have a negative viral test or proof of recovery within the three days prior to their flight in order to be issued a boarding pass,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control official Marty Cetron said at a briefing last week.
“U.S. citizens who choose to travel abroad must understand that they could be stuck in an extended way overseas without this Plan B, and the bottom-line message is this is really not a time for people to be engaging in discretionary travel,” he advised.
Some international hotels and resorts are making it easier by offering COVID-19 tests for guests, said Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights.
“What a weird time we live in when you get your complimentary pillow chocolate and complimentary COVID-19 tests,” Keyes said. “But it’s a very shrewd move on the hotel’s part … saying ‘we will handle the logistics.'”
Multiple travel restrictions are in place, and the borders between the U.S. and Canada have been closed for nonessential visits. The CDC and U.S. Department of State provide travel advisories, and carriers such as Delta Air Lines offer information on testing abroad and a map of COVID-19 policies by country.
Asked if the government might extend COVID-19 tests as a requirement for domestic travel, Cetron said “we’re actively looking at it. We realize that there’s been a dramatic evolution and increase in both testing platforms and testing capacity. I think this is a really important part of our tool kit to combat this pandemic.”
And, to be clear, health experts and the CDC warn any travel is risky and increases the chances of spreading the virus, especially with more contagious mutations of COVID-19 coming into the U.S.
As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up, another tool could be requiring proof of inoculation, Keyes thinks.
“To the extent that there are places where travel is off-limits today for Americans, ‘vaccine passports’ may be a steppingstone to reopening,” he said. The documentation could consist of your paper card confirming vaccination, or “the more likely prospect is an app.”
You should know
State authorities are warning of scams involving the Real ID requirements for driver’s licenses and ID cards. The cons take the form of a text messages falsely claiming to be from the Illinois Department of Employment Security and offering a link to click on to update identification cards. Don’t click on it, as it could load malware onto your device or obtain personal information, Attorney General Kwame Raoul warned. “This is a scam, and you should immediately delete the message,” he said.
Got ideas on how to make the stretch between Route 83 and Lake-Cook Road safer and more efficient? Share your thoughts with the Lake County Division of Transportation at arlington-heights-road-lakecountyil.hub.arcgis.
One more thing
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has appointed Chicagoan Jacqueline Gomez to serve on the Illinois tollway board. Gomez has a master’s degree in business administration and is director of supplier and workforce diversity at the Obama Foundation. She also has worked as Cook County’s director of contract compliance. Tollway directors receive a stipend of $31,426. If confirmed by the Senate, her term will last through Feb. 23, 2023.