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February 12, 2021 1:00 PM, EST

Biden Team Cool to Preflight Virus Tests Floated by Buttigieg

Passengers wear protective masks on an American Airlines flight. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)Passengers wear protective masks on an American Airlines flight. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)

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President Joe Biden’s administration isn’t seriously considering an imminent coronavirus testing requirement for domestic U.S. flights, people familiar with the matter said.

The prospect of tests being required for flights within the U.S. was floated this month by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It sparked a flurry of reaction from airlines and unions with the industry already suffering significant financial losses and job cuts due to the pandemic.

A testing requirement for domestic flights isn’t under close consideration, though no options are being formally ruled out, the people said. No decision is imminent, they said. One expressed surprise that the issue had erupted this week.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg

Airline executives were scheduled to meet virtually on Feb. 12 with Jeff Zients, a Biden aide who serves as COVID-19 response coordinator, according to a person familiar with the matter. The White House declined to comment.

Testing capacity would be a potential constraint on any such plan, particularly as Biden pushes to reopen schools with a range of mitigation measures, including testing. The CDC was poised to release its schools guidance the afternoon of Feb. 12.

Buttigieg told Axios this week that testing passengers before domestic flights is in “active conversation with the CDC right now.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Feb. 11 that the administration will always consider safety measures but that “no decisions have been made around additional public health measures” for domestic flights.

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