Testing or proof of COVID infection required for US entry

I got this STEP alert Friday. Interestingly, proof of a vaccination is not an option:

Health Alert - Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs (January 15, 2021)

Location : Worldwide:The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director has signed an order requiring all airline passengers traveling to the United States, including U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test or recovery from COVID-19.

Event: Effective January 26, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide either a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel or provide a positive test result and documentation from a licensed health care provider or public health official of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Passengers must also attest, under penalty of law, to having received a negative qualifying test result or to recovery from COVID-19 and medical clearance to travel.

See the CDC Proof of Negative Test Result page to view the order, complete the attestation, and to see FAQ’s.

Airlines must deny boarding to passengers who do not meet these requirements.

U.S. citizens in countries where adequate COVID-19 testing is not available or may not be able to satisfy the requirements, should depart immediately or prepare to be unable to return to the United States until such time as they can meet the requirements.

That last paragraph is shocking. I didn’t know countries could refuse entry to their own citizens.


It sounds rather ominous, doesn’t it?
I wonder what this is in response to. Why now?

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I didn’t know they could do that either, but my guess would be that they are doing it for the new variants. Maybe they found that the people bringing them in are actually US citizens. I know the person with the UK variant found in PA was a US citizen that had returned from international business.


Proof of vaccination would be useless, given that the testing of the vaccines focussed on how well it protects against serious effects of Covid-19. It would still be possible to actually be able to transmit the virus to others.

The question of a country’s own citizens is certainly interesting. The U.K. will require a negative test as of tomorrow and it applies to everyone over the age of 11, including U.K. citizens. But it does allow for different types of test, including the rapid tests which I think many airports are going to implement for departing passengers. Otherwise I guess you have to fly via a country that does offer tests.


The Brazil and the South Africa variant are even more contagious / transmissible than the U.K. one I believe. That’s why now.


This is not known to be true. Other vaccines do reduce transmission substantially and there is no reason to think these don’t, as well. You’re right in that it’s going to take time and a great deal of data to know for sure. And we should continue to practice social distancing until we know more. But I think at least the AZ & Moderna shots already have some evidence that they do prevent transmission.

And this is definitely not true.
There’s a big difference between “It very likely does work” and “it very likely does not.” Absolutes are rarely helpful in most medical situations, including this one, I think. Past experience weighs heavily on the side of the former assumption.

Therefore, I’m leaning toward efficacy as the cause of vaccines being left off the list. Some vaccines, such as Sinovac, may have an efficacy as low as 50%. This vaccine is being purchased by countries who don’t have access to the Moderna or Pfizer shots. Also, vaccines typically have to be given twice, so there is lots of room for error. With testing, the kinks have more or less been worked out.

But that’s just a guess.

I was wondering if this might be the reason. Seems logical. Although, I’m not sure how “new” this variant is. In the US we weren’t doing nearly as much genetic testing on the virus as they were doing in the UK when the variant was found there, (I think in September). It may be that if we look, we will find it here. I mean, they just found a case in Wyoming of all places. :rofl:

I wonder if antibody testing would be accepted.

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I imagine the issue there might be in testing accuracy.

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I did find this on the CDC website:

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs.

I think that means it has to be a PCR, or perhaps a rapid antigen test.

This article is one of many stating the same thing. No one knows yet whether the vaccines will stop you catching the virus, just that they prevent you getting seriously ill from the virus:


there are questions about how effective the vaccine will be at reducing the spread of Covid-19. In December, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, explained that people must continue to be extremely cautious about transmission even after they’ve been vaccinated. “The magic phrase is transmission,” he said at a Downing Street press conference.

“I think we can be confident and we will know quite quickly within a matter of a couple of months the impact of these vaccines on reducing severe illness in the population, and when we know that we’ll be able to say - I hope we’ll be able to say - when you’re fully vaccinated, your chances of severe illness from Covid are very markedly reduced.”

Although Mr Van-Tam assured the population the vaccine will work to reduce the severity of illness if contracted, he could not make such assurances about transmission. “We don’t know if the vaccines will reduce transmission yet,” he said. “I can’t give you the assurance that you won’t still pose a hazard to others through transmitting the virus.”

Here’s another one:



No vaccine is 100% effective, and the makers of coronavirus vaccines are still evaluating whether the shots protect against all infections, or just those that cause symptoms.

Both articles were referencing Pfizer and Moderna.


And length of time that those antibodies help prevent infection. I’m not sure we know that yet.

Yes, all that is true. But how that is put to use in practical terms is an entirely different matter. I also spy a lot of CYA wording in there, which is what I would expect of both the companies and the authorities.

At the risk of over-using a phrase I already over-use, the perfect is often the enemy of the good. Sometimes decisions are made based on less-than-irrefutable evidence because the situation demands it.

You literally just blew me out stating that it was not true.

Now you’re saying they were true. Make up your mind.

I stated it was not known if the vaccine would prevent transmission and that the testing focussed on how well they reduced serious complications of the virus, Both of which are backed up by the articles.


No, you said proof of a vaccine would be “useless”. That’s fairly definitive. That’s what I said was not true.
I don’t have to make up my mind, either. Dealing in gray areas is what I do all day long.

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I’m not for a minute against the vaccines by the way @Pod. They are essential for life to return to normal and I have little truck with anyone who refuses to get a shot.

I was simply explaining why I don’t believe proof of vaccination is enough to allow someone into any country yet. A negative test is far more useful right now, not least because very few people who are likely to be travelling next week will have been vaccinated.


On that we can agree.

That’s what you said in response.

Historically speaking, vaccines have successfully caused people to also not transmit a disease. If the body fights any invader immediately, the infection doesn’t have enough time to multiply in the body. This makes transmission after vaccination highly unlikely.

But in science, absolutes are rare and hard to prove, so any company or health org would be hard pressed to make such a claim until they have conclusive evidence. Absence of evidence doesn’t mean that it isn’t highly likely, though, that the vaccine will prevent transmission.