On January 20, 2021 Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. In his first week in office, he’s already signed multiple executive orders that will have a significant impact on travel. This has many people asking, “How will the Biden administration impact the travel industry?” Overall, leaders in the travel industry are supportive of the Biden administrations plans to support travel. Let’s take a look at what Biden’s executive orders mean for travelers as well as some of the things we can expect in the coming months and how these changes may further impact travel.
President Biden has already signed an executive order federally mandating masks for all interstate travelers. You can read the official Executive Order on Promoting Covid-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel here. The mask mandate is specified in Section 2 of this document.
The new executive order states that the mask mandate applies to all forms of interstate public transportation including airports and planes, trains, ferries, and intercity buses. While airlines have required proper mask usage for all passengers ages two and over for some time now, the airline industry welcomes this new federal mandate. Until now enforcement of airline mask rules has fallen primarily to flight attendants, who have had more than their fair share of run-ins with unruly passengers. The president of the Association of Flight Attendants states that the airline industry is excited to have federal support backing their mask requirements.
Negative Test for Entry Into US
Effective Thursday January 26, 2021, the US will require all travelers entering the US to provide proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival in the United States. You can read the official Executive Order on Promoting Covid-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel here. The new testing requirement is covered in Section 5 of this document. Wandering Moms has previously covered this new testing requirement and you can read our breakdown of the details here.
While this new testing requirement certainly makes things a bit more complicated for travelers entering the United States, Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association says the industry also supports this change. He believes testing provides an additional layer of safety that is necessary if the industry is going to get back on it’s feet again.
In addition to the negative test requirement, Biden is making a 10 day quarantine mandatory for everyone entering the United States. The requirement is a 10 day quarantine, consistent with CDC guidelines and can be read in Section 5 of the official executive order.
It is not yet known how this mandatory quarantine will be enforced. The US Travel Association questions the necessity of a mandatory quarantine period in addition to the testing requirement. However, it is important to note that a negative Covid test only proves that a person does not have a high enough viral load to trigger a positive at the exact moment the test was taken. It is known that people may test negative in the couple of days of infection, before their viral load is high enough to show up as positive on a viral test. It is possible, during that time, for people to be contagious and unknowingly infecting others. So there is significant scientific evidence to support the necessity of both the negative testing requirement AND 10 day quarantine.
On Monday January 25, 2021, Biden extended travel restrictions on numerous countries including the United Kingdom, Europe, and Brazil. He also implemented a new restriction on non-US citizens traveling from South Africa as the administration is particularly concerned about a new variant of the Coronavirus that has originated in South Africa. These travel restrictions are a presidential proclamation, not an executive order- as executive orders apply to agencies where as presidential proclamations apply govern the actions of individuals.
The official proclamation can be found HERE. It is important to note a couple of things in this document. First and foremost, this proclamation applies to NON US CITIZENS. The proclamation does not apply to US citizens or US nationals at this time. It is also important to note that this is not a complete ban on travel from countries in the order. It states that non-citizens cannot enter the US if they have been on one of the highlighted countries within the last 14 days. If people spend a 14 day period in another country not on the restricted list, they are then able to fly into the US, following the negative testing and quarantine requirements.
What Else Can We Expect?
One thing the travel industry overwhelmingly agrees on is that the Biden administration appears dedicated to providing financial support through the new Covid relief package he is fast tracking through Congress. Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion dollar Covid relief package, which includes an additional bailout for US airlines. Travel experts also applaud the $20 billion devoted to a national vaccination program, as the travel industry agrees that vaccination is an important part of the travel industry bouncing back.
Wandering Moms will be keeping tabs on how the Biden administration will impact the travel industry. We will be updating the blog as more detailed information becomes available- stay tuned!