U.S. Ends Health Screening For Some Overseas Travelers


Pamina Yung, Staff Writer

Travelers will no longer have to channel through one of fifteen U.S. airports that were approved and designated to handle international flights during the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that out of the 675,000 passengers who underwent additional airport health screening, fewer than 15 were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The U.S. government decided that because of this, starting from 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 14, U.S. airports will cancel additional screening for travelers coming in from certain countries such as China, Iran, Brazil, and most countries in Europe. Previous methods of testing included basic medical examinations and required travelers to answer questions about their symptoms and medical and travel history. 

The CDC stated, “We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates that symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms.”

This is a major issue since the virus can incubate for days, which creates a concern for undetected asymptomatic transmission.

Instead, airports are putting more effort into educating passengers before and during the flight and after arrival, as well as instructing them to continuously monitor their health. They will also collect the passengers’ contact information for tracing purposes in case of an infection. At the start of quarantine in March, Americans were recommended by the State Department to avoid traveling overseas. The CDC still advises this, even after the warning was withdrawn in August. 

Katherine Estep, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, said, “We continue to support spending scarce screening resources where they can best be utilized and no longer believe that it makes sense to continue screening at these 15 airports given the extremely low number of passengers identified by the CDC as potentially having a health issue.”

The travel industry is looking to form testing programs that will perform health screenings for international commuters before takeoff. According to groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Airlines for America, and the U.S. Travel Association, pre-flight testing could be a huge step into containing COVID-19. 

But as crucial as these testing programs could be to drastically slowing the spread of the virus, setting them up internationally will prove a complicated challenge, especially with the billions of dollars in economic damage from the decrease in international travel.


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