A new mask mandate, negative COVID tests and a lifted travel ban.
Within his first few days as the 46th President of the United States of America, Joe Biden has reversed the Islamophobic travel ban and implemented a new set of state-side COVID-19 travel regulations that could save thousands of lives.
One of President Biden’s first executive orders was to rescind the ban on nationals from Muslim-majority countries entering the States. POTUS said the ban was a “stain on our national conscience.” He’s continuing to roll out executive orders related to tourism to create stricter COVID-19 regulations to keep Americans safe and healthy.
The president considers mask-wearing to be a “patriotic duty.” As a part of his Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce, masks are now required in National Parks and at monuments, memorials, and historic sites that are a part of the federal lands. The executive order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel requires face masks on all modes of interstate transportation within the States, including flights, buses, ships, and trains as well as in airports. This is the first time there’s been a federally mandated mask policy in the States during the coronavirus pandemic. However, U.S. airlines have already been requiring passengers to wear masks.
In addition to the early January policy requiring negative COVID-19 tests for arriving travelers, all passengers arriving into the United States will now be required to quarantine. Biden has stated that anyone coming into the United States by air, “will need to test before they get onto that plane before they depart and quarantine when they arrive in America.”
“We welcome the president’s focus on policies that will encourage safe travel and help restore the millions of U.S. travel jobs that were lost last year,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “We also strongly support the president’s mask mandate for interstate travel, which is in line with the industry’s health and safety guidance.”
The COVID-19 travel executive order went into effect on January 26th. However, the White House has yet to release a statement regarding the length of the mandatory quarantine period for incoming visitors. Recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Transportation Safety Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration will influence the regulation. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation is creating regulations for land arrivals and the Coast Guard for seaports of entry. The agencies are expected to provide recommendations on the quarantine length within the next week in addition to a plan to handle fraudulent tests and entry for passengers arriving from countries where tests aren’t easily accessible.
These new protocols are intended to slow the spread of the disease. Many medical professionals support the comprehensive plan. “President Biden’s policies are merely bringing the United States closer to the rest of the world’s standards. Every country I’ve entered has required had some form of COVID-19 testing. Some were as simple as a temperature check and a document indicating travel history (Mexico) to being met at the airport by people in full PPE and receiving a Covid test at the airport (Togo). When I’d return to the US, I’d pass through customs and never speak to anyone or have anyone ask where I had been,” says Bob Bacheler, a critical care flight nurse.
Cherene Saradar, a nurse anesthetist who has been working with COVID-19 patients and travel blogger, reflects a similar sentiment. “The testing requirement prior to international flights into the United States should have been implemented a year ago,” she says. She’d like to see stricter requirements for those traveling domestically.
Lola Méndez is a sustainable travel advocate who writes the responsible lifestyle blog Miss Filatelista.