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Negative COVID-19 test is mandatory to fly

All travelers flying into the U.S. must now provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than three days before their flight, or they will be denied boarding.

The order was initially announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 12 and formalized in an executive order President Joe Biden signed last week.

International travel is still down considerably compared to last year, but there was an uptick in Americans flying to beach locales like Mexico that did not require them to quarantine upon arrival. This order is an attempt to mitigate the risk of travelers spreading COVID-19 as new variants of the virus emerge and the country struggles to roll out the vaccine. “We urge folks to postpone their trips if they’re able,” acting Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Ian Brownlee said Tuesday, “and if they absolutely must travel to equip themselves with information.”

The order applies to all travelers ages 2 and up, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Travelers can take a rapid, PCR, or an at-home test, as long as the specimen is laboratory tested. Travelers must bring written documentation of the laboratory test result — paper or electronic. All travelers, regardless of vaccination or antibody status, have to provide a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery. If you have proof of a positive COVID-19 test within three months and are safe to end isolation you can travel with documentation of the positive test and a letter from a health care provider or public health official that says you are cleared to travel.