CDC: Home tests for Covid sufficient to travel to the US

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CDC Public Health Officer assessing a sick traveler.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Quarantine Station staff, respond to reports of sick travelers at 18 United States international airports, and land ports of entry, where most international travelers arrive. Here, CDC Quarantine, Public Health Officer, Diana Lu, was assessing a sick traveler, who had just arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport from another country. She is trained to ask such questions as: “When did the fever start? Any other symptoms? “ (Photo by CDC/Unsplash)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made international travel to the US a bit easier. It said in an update from May 7, 2021 that all international passengers arriving into the US may present a rapid at-home Covid-19 test to enter the country.

Initially, the CDC ruled out the at-home tests as an option to travel to the US. As of January 26, 2021 CDC required all passengers entering the US from intentional flights to present a negative gold-standard PCR test or rapid antigen test. For the validity of the tests they have to be no less then 72 hours old before scheduled departure. According to the January 26 CDC directive tests taken at home were not enough to fly.

Even though the CDC has changed its guidelines and eased its rules on what tests are sufficient to fly, there are rules passengers have to follow when doing the at-home tests.

Only SARS-CoV-2 viral test (an antigen test or a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are recognized.

The at-home test has to be taken using “a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test that provides real-time supervision remotely through an audio and video connection,” the CDC says.

Basically, the hospital or the lab provider (i.e. telehealth provider) which supplies the test has to see the traveler taking the test via online video and audio connection in order to certify the test and to ensure it is done properly. The telehealth provider also needs to verify the identity of the traveler in order to link the test result to the given person.

“This is an encouraging step in facilitating the international travel process, while continuing to prioritize the safety and well-being of all travelers and employees seeking entry to the U.S.,” said the Airlines for America for the USA Today about the CDC approval of at-home tests for international travel into the US.

“International travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants,” says the CDC on their website. The CDC recommends that travelers delay their international travel until they are vaccinated. However, there are still passengers that refuse to get vaccinated for various reasons. In fact, vaccinated travelers can still spread the Covid-19 virus.


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Ian Powers is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. Ian has over 20 years of aviation travel experience.

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