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No, U.S. COVID testing rule applies only to inbound international flights

As of Dec. 6, each international flyer age two and older must provide proof of a negative COVID test taken within the day.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Before misinformation "takes off," it's time to "land" the truth on a question about holiday air travel.

THE QUESTION

Viewer Brenda Wagner wrote to the VERIFY team, explaining she and her daughter are traveling from Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU) to New York on Dec. 16. She asked, "Are we supposed to be COVID tested before we go?"

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

No, a passenger does not need to get tested for COVID before or after domestic air travel (unless, of course, the passenger has symptoms or a known exposure). The federal testing rule does require all international passengers ages two and older to test negative for COVID within a day of flying back to the U.S.

WHAT WE FOUND

Wagner does not need to test for COVID before or after her flight from RDU to New York.

As of June 25, New York dropped its travel advisory that had required incoming travelers to submit health forms and be subject to quarantine. However, if Brenda were traveling internationally, she would need a negative COVID test before flying back to the U.S.

The Biden Administration's new international air travel policy took effect Dec. 6. Every traveler ages two and older, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, must show proof of a negative COVID test taken within one day of the flight's departure. PCR, rapid and self tests all qualify, as long as they meet CDC requirements. 

Currently, there is no federal rule for testing before or after domestic travel, although, as was the case in New York, cities can impose their own, stricter rules. 

Keep in mind, the TSA is enforcing the CDC order on masks on both international and domestic flights. This took effect Jan. 21, 2021 and requires face masks on all transportation network flights and public transportation.

Several other countries have similar or even more stringent COVID protocols prior to and after flying. In Italy, for example, air travelers have to provide proof of vaccine or have to isolate for five days after arrival. 

Bottom line, always check the rules for your destination, and know those rules could change while you are there. 

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