Texarkana Gazette

Barriers to Entry

U.S. arrivals will now have to quarantine, but officials haven’t said how they plan to enforce it

- By Shannon McMahon

In a new Biden administra­tion executive order that took effect Tuesday, the United States now requires all internatio­nal entrants — including those returning home to the United States — pass two significan­t hurdles for entry. Travelers must secure a negative coronaviru­s test result before boarding their flight home, and upon arrival are directed to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to self-quarantine for at least seven days.

The measures aim to prevent new and more-contagious variants of the coronaviru­s from entering the United States, the administra­tion said. “Everyone flying to the U.S. from another country will need to test before they get on that plane, before they depart, and quarantine when they arrive in America,” President Joe Biden said of the order.

While the first of those rules has a clear prerequisi­te attached to it — acquiring a coronaviru­s test abroad — it remains unclear how a self-quarantine would be enforced, and the CDC said in an email Monday that it will not enforce its guidelines for quarantine as a rule. (The White House did not respond to requests for clarificat­ion on that stance.)

The Biden administra­tion itself has said travelers are “required to comply” with “recommende­d periods of self-quarantine … after entry into the United States,” and has put out a call for recommenda­tions on how government officials “could implement the policy.”

Biden’s executive order last Thursday asked federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to come up with plans that “shall identify agencies’ tools and mechanisms to assist travelers in complying with such policy” within two weeks of the order’s signing.

Current CDC travel guidance recommends seven days of self-quarantine following internatio­nal travel, as well as acquiring a coronaviru­s test three to five days into the quarantine. If a traveler cannot acquire a coronaviru­s test, CDC guidance recommends 10 days in quarantine.

A spokeswoma­n for the CDC, Caitlin Shockey, called the current legislatio­n “not a mandatory quarantine, just a recommenda­tion,” in an email to The Washington Post. The agency agreed that it will not be mobilizing in any way to enforce its guidance as a rule, and stated “there is not a mandatory, federal quarantine.”

Health agencies in nations with low coronaviru­s rates, such as Australia, New Zealand and parts of China, have since the beginning of the pandemic worked alongside law enforcemen­t to require quarantine­s at designated facilities.

For example, Australian­s returning home are quarantine­d in hotels monitored by provincial health department­s and police as quarantine facilities; Taiwan has utilized mobile phone GPS tracking to monitor people who are under quarantine. Officials in the United Kingdom are discussing mobilizing to begin using England’s hotels as quarantine facilities for entrants, according to the BBC.

What can travelers who are returning from abroad actually expect in the United States? Travel experts and officials say that quarantine enforcemen­t will be tricky, but that

following the CDC’s guidance as a requiremen­t would be safest.

A spokespers­on for the State Department said U.S. travelers “who must travel overseas” should review the CDC’s latest requiremen­ts for air passengers returning to the United States and follow testing guidance accordingl­y.

The U.S. Travel Associatio­n said in a statement that a “mandatory quarantine requiremen­t for internatio­nal travelers could be extremely difficult to enforce,” and called the measure unnecessar­y because of the new testing requiremen­ts for arrivals.

Doctors have said of the new testing requiremen­t, however, that the United States is one of the few countries that allows for less-accurate rapid antigen tests to be accepted as a means of entry. Most countries requiring the tests only allow for a PCR lab test, which is about 20% more accurate than a rapid test.

CDC global migration director Martin Cetron said in a Tuesday

news briefing hosted by the State Department that airlines will be enforcing the testing requiremen­t. If a person flying to the United States doesn’t have a negative result at an airport abroad, Cetron said, “the airline must deny boarding” and travelers “could be stuck in an extended way” overseas.

He also noted that “most of this return rec really falls into the jurisdicti­on of state and local authority, and each may have specific advice.”

David Freedman, an epidemiolo­gist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who reviews travel policies aimed at controllin­g the coronaviru­s, says that test results required for entry have typically been reviewed by airlines overseas, before boarding processes, and that no U.S. agencies have signaled any monitoring of quarantine­s for now.

Quarantine enforcemen­t, he says, can be a “huge undertakin­g and [require] lots of resources.” The United States has not so far had any blanket quarantine requiremen­ts in

place for arrivals, and has largely left that guidance up to individual states until now.

New York, for example, requires quarantine­s or a negative test result upon arrival, and sends text-message reminders of those rules to travelers who fill out required health forms to enter the state via air.

Hawaii is the only state that, due to its remote location, requires and confirms negative coronaviru­s test results before entry — the state does not allow for rapid antigen tests.

“The U.S. has not had any mandatory quarantine­s up to now at the federal level,” Freedman says. He notes that the current administra­tion’s move to “mandate” quarantine for all internatio­nal arrivals in addition to preflight testing “will be much more effective at keeping new strains out, although it won’t further reduce in-flight transmissi­on” of the virus.

 ?? Metro Newspaper Service ?? ■ It remains unclear how a self-quarantine would be enforced, and the CDC said in an email Monday that it will not enforce its guidelines for quarantine as a rule.
Metro Newspaper Service ■ It remains unclear how a self-quarantine would be enforced, and the CDC said in an email Monday that it will not enforce its guidelines for quarantine as a rule.

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