TAMPA, Fla. — This week travelers will face new requirements when returning to the United States from foreign countries.
They must now take a COVID19 test within three days of their flight and present a negative result or documentation of recovery to the airline before boarding their flight. The CDC also says travelers should quarantine when they return.
“It’s very effective,” said Edwin Michael, Ph.D.
Michael is a professor at the University of South Florida and epidemiologist. He studies the spread of disease, including COVID19.
He has been in the UK visiting family, but with a return flight booked is prepared for the new steps.
“I think if you look at travel restrictions this is one of the most effective ways of controlling the spread of the pandemic,” he said.
A spokesperson for Tampa International Airport said their international travel was already down.
“This will obviously prolong the recovery of our international traffic coming back,” said Emily Nipps, a spokesperson for Tampa International Airport. “It’s a good thing it’s keeping us safe and it’s keeping our airports safe and it’s keeping our region safe. We understand why the need for that test is there with the case numbers the way they are, but again it’s really kind of we’re keeping an eye on all these things especially with our international travel because it’s going to impact our traffic.”
Nipps said the new rule means that travelers need to research where they can get a test.
“The responsibility is really on the airlines. They’re all going to handle it differently but you will not be able to board the plane to come back to the US if you don’t have a negative COVID test in hand,” she said.
President Biden also signed an order calling for mask wearing during interstate travel, including airplanes and airports.
TIA has had a mask requirement, and Nipps said you’re hard pressed to find anyone there without a mask, but they are waiting to see the details of the order, including for enforcement.
“The airline industry and the airport industry have been really pressing for this some sort of federal consistency because the orders vary by region, by city. It’s made it difficult to enforce any sort of order,” said Nipps.
Already, some travel agents said they’re hearing feedback about the pre-departure tests.
“I’m seeing more people called concerned and asking me what to do,” said Tammy Levent, the president of Elite Travel.
She said clients have concerns over quarantining and access to testing.
“Really it’s not changing to Florida it’s asking me where else can I go that would be easier,” she said.
That’s why some agency owners recommend working with an agent.
Another group said dozens of their clients are switching trips planned to Mexico to the Sunshine State, and continuing travel to the Caribbean.
“Now that you have to do testing to come back a lot of people are saying I don’t want to risk having to quarantine in Mexico at a place I don’t know,” said Kerri Stuart, a co-owner of Creating Magic Vacations.
“In the short term I think it’s gonna make a huge uptick in travel to Florida, 2, 3, 4, 5 months down the road we just don’t know,” said Rob Stuart, also a co-owner of Creating Magic Vacations.
However, they said clients later in the spring are in what they call a holding pattern.