Jan. 25, 2021

New quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements may be in the works for international travelers, as President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. recently signed an executive order tasking several government agencies with assessing current recommendations and requirements, and developing new protocols for travelers.

“This executive order does not, at this point, impose new restrictions on aircraft operators or their passengers,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “It does, however, provide insight into the new administration’s concerns regarding COVID-19 transmission and potential mitigation measures.”

The order, Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, tasks the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in coordination with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assess the Jan. 12, 2021, CDC order requiring a negative COVID-19 test result for passengers traveling into the United States.

The assessment must consider the timing and types of COVID-19 tests that should satisfy the negative test requirement; proof of test results required by passengers and the feasibility of implementing other public health measures, including self-quarantine or self-isolation for passengers entering the United States. Based on the assessment, HHS and DHS must “take any further appropriate regulatory action, to the extent feasible and consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law.”

The assessment is to be completed within 14 days from the date of the order, after which the HHS, DOT and DHS are also tasked with consulting with foreign governments, the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and other relevant stakeholders, in order to develop appropriate guidelines or regulations for safe international travel.

While some news sources are reporting the order contains a self-quarantine requirement for international travelers, Alison Squiccimarro, attorney at the Law Offices of Paul A. Lange, questions whether self-quarantine is actually mandated by the order.

“This executive order is really an instruction to HHS, DOT and DHS to assess existing policies and develop new regulations as appropriate,” said Squiccimarro. “Self-quarantine is still recommended by the CDC at this point. How this executive order will be implemented will be determined over the next several weeks as the requested agencies identify the tools and mechanisms for assisting travelers in complying.”

Squiccimarro said other issues to be determined include the federal government’s authority to mandate self-quarantine or self-isolation and how such a mandate would be enforced.