Dems Push Biden on Domestic Flight Vaccine Mandate as Millions Plan to Travel for Holidays

November 13, 2021
In The News

As millions of Americans prepare to travel during the holiday season, several Democratic lawmakers are pushing for President Joe Biden to require passengers on domestic flights to either provide proof of vaccination or produce a negative COVID-19 test to prevent a "devastating winter surge" in cases.

In a letter to the president dated Thursday, the lawmakers--among them Reps. Ritchie Torres, Jerrold Nadler and Ted Lieu--believe such a requirement would reduce the chances of a potential coronavirus surge, which occurred in 2020 when cases skyrocketed around major winter holidays.

They cited the Biden administration's requirement for international travelers to be vaccinated before entering the United States, praising it as "critical to reducing COVID-19 transmission risk for passengers, crewmembers, and U.S. destination communities."

Now they are calling on Biden to "apply similar strategies" to domestic flights.

"Many Americans remain reluctant to spending extended periods of time in enclosed public spaces due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure," the letter read."Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for domestic flights will help alleviate these concerns for traveling. Further, this type of COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirement has been endorsed by prominent voices in the public health community."

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, introduced a bill in September that would require either the vaccine or a negative test on domestic flights.

Some in the tourism industry have criticized efforts to require passengers to be vaccinated. In a September 13 statement, U.S. Travel Association Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes wrote there should be no vaccination requirement because it would be "unfair" to families with children not eligible for the vaccine.

"The science—including studies from the Harvard School of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Defense—overwhelmingly points to the safety of air travel as long as masks are worn. And with the federal mask mandate for all forms of public transportation and U.S. airports extended through January 2022, proper tools are already in place to enable safe air travel for Americans," Barnes' statement read.

Although cases of COVID-19 had been on the decline, experts warn that they could climb again during the winter due to increased travel and colder weather. Cases in at least 20 states have increased in the past week.

Gypsyamber D'Souza, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News she anticipates an increase in cases in the next few months, but though widespread vaccination will prevent the surge from being as severe as in 2020.

"We do expect to see a surge in new cases over the holidays as people get together more and travel more," she said.

Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a November 3 tweet that he is concerned about another surge after Thanksgiving.

"We need to stop talking as though covid is over. More than 40% of the country remains unvaccinated," he tweeted. "That's a lot of warm water for hurricane delta."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment Saturday afternoon but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.