New travel restrictions take effect today for all travelers entering the U.S.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Last week new air travel restrictions were announced by the Biden administration. Biden announced that he would tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of their departure to the United States. Vaccinated or not, all international travelers must be tested, including Americans.

This came on short notice. On Thursday the announcement from the White House was made and on Friday it was confirmed that the order was effective as of today. This is part of the administration’s winter COVID emergency response and the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Stronger Public Health Protocols for Safe International Travel: Last month, the Administration implemented stronger international travel protocols, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated. The very day the WHO identified the new Omicron variant, the Biden Administration took immediate steps to restrict travel from the countries in the region where it was confirmed to be spreading quickly. The President will announce additional steps to strengthen the safety of international travel as we face this new threat – just as we have faced those that have come before it.

Strengthening global pre-departure testing protocols: Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.

Extending the requirement to wear a mask on airplanes, rail travel, and public transportation: The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter. The Transportation Security Administration will extend its implementing orders to maintain these requirements through March 18. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the masking requirements – with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.

Let’s face it, they are going to ask us to mask up forever. It looks like COVID tests are here to stay for travel, too, at least for the near future. The COVID emergency plan for the winter season is long and involved. Much of it is the same old thing – encouraging vaccinations and increasing the availability of vaccines and tests. Biden inserted a plea to employers to be strident on enforcing vaccination mandates though his administration has consistently been shut down on the mandates by the courts. Never mind those court rulings, just do as he says is the message.

The testing requirement for all inbound travelers from overseas is a new restriction. Before today’s new enforcement, Americans were not forced to take a test if they produced a vaccine card showing they are fully vaccinated or had a negative test result. Now everyone must be tested, regardless of vaccinations or not. The administration continues to undermine its confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, especially in light of the latest variant. It is likely in response to so many breakthrough cases being reported by vaccinated Americans. The vaccines help infected people experience a less brutal case of the virus, usually preventing death and even hospitalization in most cases, but they don’t completely prevent vaccinated people from getting the virus. Fortunately, so far, the Omicron variant produces milder cases though it spreads rapidly.

When he announced the winter emergency plan, Biden made some exaggerated claims of success in “beating back” COVID-19. And, of course, he was sure to say that he relies on science.

“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion, just like we beat back COVID-19 in the spring and more powerful variant — Delta variant in the summer and fall,” Biden said Thursday as he unveiled his “COVID-19 Winter Plan.”

Biden also said Friday that he does not believe the White House will have to go beyond these measures to institute a vaccine requirement for domestic travel – at least “at this point.”

“The measures that I announced yesterday are — we believe are sufficient to deal with the proper medical precautions to deal with the spread of this new variant,” he said. “But we do require for travel — we’re going to continue to require people to have masks on — masks on — and in public places, and — and federal buildings.”

Biden added: “I continue to rely on the scientists and asking them whether or not we have to move beyond what we did yesterday. Right now, they’re saying no.”

It is an inconvenient fact that Joe Biden ran for president claiming to be the one person who could end the pandemic. Thus far, he has not fulfilled that promise. Sure, it was a ludicrous claim to make at the time, but he was trying his best to be the anti-Trump candidate. Never mind that Trump’s success in getting more than one vaccine to market and then distribution to everyone in record time far outweighs anything Biden will do during the pandemic. Biden’s success has been spotty at best. Much of the hesitancy over getting vaccinated by some segments of the American population falls directly on him, Kamala, and other Trump deranged Democrats who initially said they would take a pass on getting vaccinated while Trump was in office. Here we are after 10 months of the Biden administration and he is still begging people to go get vaccinated. And, some of those who did everything asked of them are testing positive with breakthrough cases.