Today, news broke that the CDC will lift its requirement for travelers to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the States. This, perhaps, finally marks the end of COVID travel restrictions and (hopefully) the return of trip planning without the need to navigate pandemic requirements. The dropping of the COVID testing requirement comes just six weeks after the CDC ended its mask requirement for all mass transit, including buses, planes, and stations.
President Biden and his administration put testing requirements in place last year, in an effort to move away from banning travel from specific countries and instead focus on the COVID risk an individual poses. In response, the travel and hospitality industry has been lobbying for months to remove the testing requirement, citing a drop in business and a reluctance from travelers to book international trips.
“Prior to the pandemic, travel was one of our nation’s largest industry exports,” says US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The lifting of this requirement will enable the industry to lead the way toward a broader US economic and jobs recovery.”
On Monday, I am jetting off to Curaçao for a press trip, in which journalists and editors are invited to experience a destination. Curaçao is a Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela known for its pristine beaches and pastel-colored colonial architecture. The other day, I found myself looking at Sherpa to gauge the latest entry/exit restrictions for Curaçao. As has been the case throughout the COVID pandemic, navigating ever-evolving COVID requirements has been tricky.
As the questions around Curaçao’s entry/exit requirements rolled in, I remembered why I haven’t been traveling as often as I did in pre-pandemic days: it’s just gotten too complicated. How would I find a local clinic? How much would it cost? Why couldn’t I just show proof of vaccination instead? If I did test positive, God forbid, would I be quarantined on the island for two weeks or just until I tested negative again?
In recent months, these restrictions have started to fall away. One by one, countries have removed the entry requirement for a negative COVID test, even doing away with the need to show proof of vaccination. Mandates soon followed suit, as masks became obsolete in restaurants, movie theaters, concert halls, and even on airplanes. With the removal of each requirement, the reality that this pandemic is moving behind us is setting in. Could it be that travel is really going back to normal?
The last bastion of the pandemic that remained, was the need for international travelers to show proof of a negative COVID test upon entering the states. With mask mandates dropped, proof of vaccination no longer required, and outgoing COVID tests not needed — the travel industry implored the CDC to get rid of this last restriction, arguing the science and data deemed it unnecessary.
“I’m glad the CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in a statement. “I’ll continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry.”