Coronavirus

Biden Considers Forcing Domestic Airline Passengers to Get a Negative COVID Test

Could that end up costing more lives than it saves?

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The Biden administration is giving a hard look at requiring domestic air travel passengers to show a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights. Could that policy result in even more preventable deaths?

On Monday, Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "is looking at all its options" after being asked by CNN about a testing requirement for domestic flyers.

"What we know is that it's the appropriate measure for international travel, people traveling into the U.S. given some of those considerations," said Buttigieg, noting the federal government already has a testing requirement for international air travelers. "I'd say the domestic picture is very different, but you know the CDC is always evaluating what can best be done to keep Americans safe."

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a Monday press briefing that testing passengers on domestic flights would help slow the spread of the virus, but declined to say whether there were plans in the works to actually require this.

The airline industry has vociferously opposed a domestic testing requirement, arguing that airlines already provide a safe environment for their passengers. Requiring customers to show a negative test before flying, they argue, would dampen already weak demand for air travel.

On Tuesday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian called it a "horrible idea" that would be a logistical nightmare to pull off while accomplishing little public health benefit given the safety of air travel.

"Air travel is as safe as—or substantially safer than—the routine activities people undertake during these times, including commuting, eating out and grocery shopping," said George Novak, CEO of the National Air Carrier Association (NACA), which represents smaller air carriers, in a January press release arguing that testing requirements would only push people towards less safe modes of travel.

"A domestic testing requirement for air travel will inevitably result in potential air travelers electing to drive to their destinations, which is statistically more dangerous than flying," he stated.

A number of studies have found that the risk of COVID-19 transmission on flights is relatively low thanks to the high-quality air filters found on planes, as well as airlines' policies of requiring masks and spacing customers apart. The airlines' voluntary masking policies have been superseded by a CDC order, issued in late January, that requires all "passengers on public conveyances" (like airplanes, buses, and trains) to wear masks.

"An airplane cabin is probably one of the most secure conditions you can be in," said Sebastian Hoehl, the co-author of two studies on in-flight COVID-19 transmission, to Scientific American in November.

As Novak mentions, there could be a counter-productive effect on public safety if people who would have otherwise flown for their trip instead choose to drive, given how much more likely one is to die in a car crash than a plane crash.

A much-cited 2007 study of the safety effects of enhanced baggage screening at airports post-9/11 argued that the added inconvenience of flying encouraged people to fly less and drive more, resulting in around 500 additional auto accidents a year.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has an absolutely abysmal record of detecting weapons and other dangerous objects in their security screenings, meaning they probably added little safety benefit to counterbalance the lives lost from increased driving.

The trade-off might be different for a policy of requiring travelers to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before flying. The virus has proven a lot more deadly than any terrorist. On the other hand, getting a COVID-19 test is much more of a hassle than having to put one's laptop in a separate bin at a security checkpoint.

Given the apparently low risk of contracting COVID-19 on planes, and the more dangerous transportation modes a domestic airline testing requirement would push people towards, the policy could well end up being counter-productive to the goal of saving lives.

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  1. Biden Considers Forcing Domestic Airline Passengers to Get a Negative COVID Test

    It’s good to see that Biden is spreading out the predictable job losses. Let those pipeline workers know they’re not special!

    1. the blond guy harassing Psaki about when those guys will receive their green yobs was funny

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  2. You know what will limit the domestic spread of COVID? If I take a single hop on a plane from one city to another, rather than drive it over several days and stop in several places, meeting dozens of nice people along the way.

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  3. Can Biden really do enough on this?

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  4. Ronald Bailey Seal of Approval.

    1. The Koch Foundation’s resident Anthony Fauci junk science scholar.

      1. he gets credit for going down with the ship. true believer

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  5. Guess I’ll be driving.

  6. “[Driving] is statistically more dangerous than flying.” So what? Everyone knows that the only thing that matters these days is minimizing deaths from Covid. There are no trade-offs.

    1. Exactly. Flying has become exponentially unpleasant in the last 10 years. This is the capper. Unless one is going overseas, driving will become the new normal for travel. Steamships may make a comeback.

  7. What about triple masking, now that Fauci reversed himself and said that there’s no scientific evidence that double masking works?

      1. It’s like the Wheel of Fish from “UHF,” only dumber.

        1. More like chopping the head off a chicken and letting it loose on the game board like the “bailout” episode of South Park.

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  9. The litmus test for honest liberals may be this: If you don’t miss Trump already, you may not be an honest liberal.

    Maybe it’s unreasonable to expect people to be more honest with the rest of us than they are themselves, but any honest liberals out still out there in the wild–it’s time to join the Glenn Greenwalds of the world assert your honesty already.

    Biden is marching liberal values up against the wall, and if you’re not willing to speak out against Biden and the party that are pushing acceptance of these atrocities, then they’re gonna be gone. The Democrats are becoming the party of authoritarianism, and if honest people on the left don’t start denouncing that, it’ll soon be too late if it isn’t already.

    Orwell is considered an honest socialist for having denounced Stalin when everyone else on the left was apologizing for him. Christopher Hitchens made a an honest name for himself as a liberal for being willing to denounce Clinton for executing a man who might as well have been retarded and for treating women like shit–when everyone from prominent Democrats to feminists were arguing in his favor.

    Obama rose from obscurity to be the Democratic nominee for president because all the prominent Democrats were so supportive of the Iraq War. Two years from now, the left screaming about Trump and the pandemic will be about as relevant as last year’s Super Bowl. The awful policies they put in place now will be the issues that matter. When Kamala Harris was bootlicking and Bloomberg was trying to ban sugary soft drinks, it all seemed so rational.

    If things keep going this direction, suburban swing voting women will soon be nostalgic for Trump’s tweets. Biden’s trial balloons are a hell of a lot meaner in some ways than Trump’s tweets.

    1. The litmus test for honest liberals may be this: If you don’t miss Trump already, you may not be an honest liberal.”

      Liberals have been crying, heck screaming, for more controls they love this shit of control over others and they are virtue signaling all over any media they are a part of.

      1. The progressives have been calling for more control. If you’re a progressive, you’re not a liberal, honest or otherwise

      2. I wish it were just the liberals, but the “conservatives” have been screaming just as loudly since 9/11 for ever more security, so now we need an ID to get on a train (cause you know, someone could highjack it and ram it into a nuclear plant or something), a passport to come home from Canada, ID to open a bank account, etc. etc. etc.

        Both sides love authority; it’s just matter of which team you’re on that determines which particular (indistiguishable) affronts to liberty you object to.

    2. Ken, at this point I don’t consider liberals to be civilized human beings anymore. I truly consider them to be nothing more than savages. They place no value on private property, freedom, the individual, rigid principles, ethics or the rule of law (specifically the constitution). Once upon a time the democrats just wanted a bit more regulation and taxation than conservatives (think JFK or maybe even Bill Clinton) but still overall believed in capitalism and freedom. Now, after a year of seeing the horrors of totalitarian government first hand and still voting for a party that openly wants to increase the power of the government at a pace never before seen in this country, they cannot be seen as anything else than pro tyranny and anti American.

      1. Not allowed to travel without the government’s permission?!

        This is what passes for liberalism on the left now.

        1. I don’t call them anything but leftists or communists nowadays. They aren’t progressive, as communism has been tried plenty of times, it isn’t new, and their policies consistently causes all measures of human prosperity to regress, not progress. They aren’t liberals as there is nothing about their agenda that has anything to do with liberty. They aren’t democrats, as their idea of democracy is cheating their way into power using widespread voter fraud. And I prefer to call them communists over socialists as that is still somewhat of a dirty word, although there is little difference between the 2 in practice.

    3. ‘If things keep going this direction, suburban swing voting women will soon be nostalgic for Trump’s tweets….’

      not bloody likely…they’re afraid of losing their FB following…

    4. Fight them with their leftist ideas: tests are costly and will mostly affect less affluent brown travelers.

  10. Biden considers forcing ______________
    Generic headline for 2021.

  11. “The airline industry has vociferously opposed a domestic testing requirement, arguing that airlines already provide a safe environment for their passengers. Requiring customers to show a negative test before flying”

    “Thou shalt have no-other gods before me”, Gov-Gods.

    1. Let’s presume that tests would slow the spread of covid. Using the argument of “we’re safe enough as is” against this as opposed to “the government has no constitutional authority to do this whatsoever” or “anybody who doesn’t feel safe can simply choose to not fly” is basically saying sacrificing liberty for safety is a-ok, except disagreeing on exactly how much sacrifice is fine. Where we’re at now with government being by far the most important thing in everybody’s life (whether they want it to be or not) is because Americans as a whole have been slowly looking the other way as freedom is stripped one tiny bit at a time for over a century. I think at this point civil war, secession or a constitutional convention is pretty much the only way to stop the tide of tyranny and save the country.

  12. A number of studies have found that the risk of COVID-19 transmission on flights is relatively low thanks to the high-quality air filters found on planes”

    who did these studies the airline industry? seems like most people who fly get sick even before covid came along

    1. who did these studies the airline industry? seems like most people who fly get sick even before covid came along

      If being in the same space as people for a couple of hours was the cause of major outbreaks, restaurants and “large gatherings” would be the primary outbreak sources, not nursing homes and prisons.

    2. The same place masks came from, out of someone’s ass.

    3. DOD and DARPA. They conducted the tests to check if their own teams and soldiers would be safe. Look it up.

  13. Pretty sure it would be easy to fake that test, but whatever. I fly maybe once a year so I really could care less.

    1. *couldn’t. Thanks Siri.

  14. Will they accept a vaccination record?

    1. Considering that 10% of vaccination recipients still catch covid, though less severe, no.

  15. As a frequent traveler I can’t wait for the opportunity to show my papers while witnessing the death of american air travel.

  16. I recently took advantage of on an opportunity that presented itself on an evening by jumping on a morning flight to Arizona and getting there by noon the next day. Worked out well.

    Guess that won’t happen for a while. I would have been pissed if I’d been blocked by needing a test

  17. I agree with Bastian…but when you go hat in hand to the government begging for more and more money to ostensibly save jobs, you lose your leverage in these kind of arguments. The Biden Admin has you by the short-hairs and they are going to force feed you mandates that are not only going to destroy the airline industry, but the nation as a whole. I don’t care if I ever fly again…and the AFA, ALPA and other airline unions that support the Democrat party and their policies deserve all they get…sorry, but until the pain starts nothing will change.

  18. No real secessionist cares about this.
    We haven’t used an airport since they were declared constitution-free zones following 9/11.

  19. And now Biden is thinking of quarantining “red” states that even if they have low covid death rates “could” have the new mutated virus…and of course the usual suspects in the Media (NYC bolsheviks) find other NYC bolshevik lawyers at “universities” who claim the “red” states are basically insurrectionists and should be punished and no one in or out…where is Reason on this one?

    Everyone in a “true” blue state like NY should leave if they value liberty immedatly..Florida, TN, Texas all good places for libertarians..

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