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CDC recommends pre- and post-flight testing for international air travel


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising air travelers get tested before and after flights to help stop the spread of the coronavirus ahead of the holiday travel season.

Those planning to fly should get tested 1 to 3 days prior to the flight and again 3 to 5 days after traveling, according to new agency guidance on international air travel released late Saturday. CDC also is recommending people stay home for 7 days following their trips, even if they test negative. They should stay home for 14 days, if they aren’t tested after travel, the agency said.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when paired with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations,” according to the guidance.

The agency recommended that travelers with known exposure to the virus postpone their trips entirely, get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

The context: The updated travel recommendations come days after the CDC advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and to limit gatherings to people within the same household. The advisory has put the struggling airline and travel industry in the tough position of trying to assure the public of the safety of flying while trying not to openly encourage it.

Trade groups like Airlines for America and U.S. Travel Association have locked in on pre-flight testing as a potential way to drum up travel demand. They been pushing DOT, HHS and DHS to develop state-level and international protocols for replacing quarantines and other travel restrictions with pre-flight testing but, so far, plans to establish safe travel corridors between the U.S. and some international destinations have stalled.

Meanwhile, many Americans are still expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, despite warnings from health officials. More than 1 million people passed through TSA airport security checkpoints Friday, agency spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said. That is only the second time the agency has screened more than 1 million people since the pandemic started, she said.

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