WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Thursday it is not currently considering any new domestic air travel restrictions to fight the coronavirus – a day ahead of a planned meeting with airline chief executives.
“No decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would change domestic travel,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a briefing.
Earlier, the White House told Reuters “the administration is continuing to discuss recommendations across the travel space, but no specific decisions are under consideration.”
Reports the administration was considering imposing restrictions on travel to states with high levels of COVID-19 infection, including Florida, brought criticisms from many Republican lawmakers including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
The chief executives of major U.S. airlines are scheduled to meet virtually on Friday with the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator to discuss travel-related issues.
The meeting with coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients and other administration officials involved in COVID-19 issues comes as airlines, aviation unions and other industry groups have strongly objected to the possibility of requiring COVID-19 testing before boarding domestic flights.
U.S. officials told Reuters that it does not appear the administration will move forward with requiring domestic testing at this point, but stressed officials could revisit the idea if conditions changed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month said the Biden administration was “actively looking” at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing to U.S. domestic flights. The CDC on Jan. 26 began requiring negative COVID-19 tests or evidence of recovery from the disease from nearly all U.S.-bound international passengers age 2 and older.
Southwest Airlines Co Chief Executive Gary Kelly and the leaders of the airline’s unions urged President Joe Biden in a letter not to mandate COVID-19 testing, saying it would put “jobs at risk.” The U.S. airline industry has been hard hit by a decline in travel demand, which remains down 66% over pre-COVID 19 levels.
One idea that has been under review within the Biden administration is for the CDC to issue recommendations advising against travel to areas of the United States with high COVID-19 caseloads, but no decisions have been made and recommendations would not be binding, officials said.
CDC officials have repeatedly urged Americans not to travel unless necessary.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)