The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Monday the nation should consider a vaccination mandate for domestic air travel, signaling a potential embrace of an idea the Biden administration has previously eschewed, as COVID-19 cases spike. Thousands of flights were canceled over the holiday weekend, some due to bad weather, but most cancellations were related to the Omicron variant, which also caused staff shortages for several major airlines.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief science adviser on the pandemic response, said such a mandate might drive up the nation’s lagging vaccination rate as well as confer stronger protection on flights, for which federal regulations require all those age 2 and older to wear a mask.
The U.S. currently mandates that most foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, though citizens and permanent residents only need to show proof of a negative test taken within a day of boarding. Federal rules don’t require people traveling by air within the U.S. to show a negative test. Hawaii requires travelers to test or show proof of vaccination to avoid a mandatory quarantine.
Dr. Fauci: "We better be careful we don't jump the gun and think that we're in good shape, when we really still need to be extremely careful getting people vaccinated … making sure we wear masks. We're in a tough situation with omicron, it's not to be taken lightly." @MSNBC
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 27, 2021
“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said during an appearance on MSNBC. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”
Dr. Fauci says a vaccine mandate for all flyers on U.S. domestic flights is a "reasonable" requirement and "something that seriously should be considered." pic.twitter.com/ltzSniNn8C
— The Recount (@therecount) December 27, 2021
The Biden administration has thus far balked at imposing a vaccination requirement for domestic air travel. Two officials said President Biden’s science advisers have yet to make a formal recommendation for such a requirement to the President. Earlier this year the White House explored a domestic vaccination requirement for flights, or one requiring either vaccination or proof of negative test. But officials have not been eager to mandate vaccination for domestic air travel because they expected it to face immediate legal challenges, mitigating its potential effectiveness as a tool to drive up vaccinations.
Dr. Fauci says he was “stunned” when former Pres. Trump’s supporters booed him for getting booster shot, telling @jonkarl that it showed “how recalcitrant they are about being told what they should do.” https://t.co/SLTrPUzAco pic.twitter.com/ryVZLnsNhb
— ABC News (@ABC) December 27, 2021
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show more than 241 million Americans, about 77% of the eligible population age 5 and over, have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC that “we know that masking can be, is, very effective on airplanes” but the Biden administration still hasn’t made a decision on whether or not to follow Dr. Fauci’s latest suggestion.
Here’s the CEO of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, criticizing vaccine mandates. He tested positive for Covid on Thursday.
Looks like he was already symptomatic on Wednesday.
— Tristan Snell (@TristanSnell) December 18, 2021