Updated Dec. 6, 2021
New restrictions for international travelers arriving in the United States took effect today. All travelers, regardless of citizenship and vaccination status, now are required to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken within one day of departure — down from 72 hours previously. The new rules were announced by the White House last week, in response to rising concerns over the new Omicron variant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new variant has been detected in 16 states.
"We hope this measure to narrow the pre-departure testing window will be temporary until more is learned about the Omicron variant. In the meantime, the travel industry urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible," said Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association, who noted the importance of communicating restriction changes to global travelers and welcoming all qualified visitors to the United States.
The Biden administration also extended the federal mask mandate through March 18 on public transit, and in transportation hubs, such as airports and bus terminals. The mandate had been set to expire on Jan. 18. Violators face a minimum fine of $500 and up to $3,000 for repeat offenses.
In addition, the White House will expand access to Covid-19 testing through pharmacy partners and by providing access to free at-home testing kits. The administration also plans to release new programs and campaigns directed at increasing the vaccination rate, including encouraging employers to provide paid time off for employees to receive booster shots. According to the White House, 60 percent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated.
Americans who are covered by private insurance will be able to get at-home tests reimbursed by their insurance companies. For those not covered, free at-home tests will be distributed at community sites like health centers and rural clinics. The Biden administration plans on quadrupling the number of rapid at-home tests that were available over the summer.