WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats applauded President Joe Biden for requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination from international travelers coming to the United States, and now they’ve asked him to do the same for domestic travelers.
Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are among 36 Democrats who penned a letter to the President on Thursday asking for him to mandate proof of vaccinations or negative COVID-19 test results before boarding a domestic flight.
Lawmakers hope to have this implemented ahead of the holiday season to reduce the chances of America suffering another brutal winter surge.
"Implementation of these science-based requirements is critical to reducing COVID-19 transmission risk for passengers, crewmembers, and U.S. destination communities," the letter reads. "Applying similar strategies to domestic air travel would ensure Americans can travel safely to see their loved ones during the holidays while also limiting household introduction and spread of COVID-19 from visiting family and friends.
Currently, domestic travelers are subject to a federal mask mandate on planes, trains and buses. Testing is not a requirement, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing no more than three days before your trip.
People who are sick with any illness, have been exposed to COVID-19, tested positive for the virus or are awaiting the results of a coronavirus test are asked not to travel.
A traveler takes a photo of a COVID-19 testing sign at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) amidst travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Feb. 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo
Democrats strengthened their case by highlighting the success vaccine mandates have had in the private sector. Such mandates became more widespread this summer during the delta surge.
Since schools, businesses and venues started requiring visitors to prove their vaccination status or show a negative test, the U.S. has seen its caseload decrease significantly. And the nation’s vaccination rate increased during that time.
"Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that unvaccinated people would be significantly more likely to get fully vaccinated if it was a requirement to fly on an airplane," the letter said. "It is in the best interest of our nation’s public health to adopt these vaccination requirements for U.S. air travel.
Democrats also claimed the vaccine mandate would benefit the tourism and hospitality industries, which suffered major financial losses when the pandemic began. Witnesses told the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion that domestic business spending this year is projected to be just 57% of their 2019 levels.
Aviators alone lost $35 billion in 2020. And the travel and tourism sectors aren’t estimated to reach pre-pandemic levels until four years from now.
"Recovery of these industries will only occur when American travelers are confident that they are safe during indoor activities, including when traveling, whether in airports or on the planes themselves," the letter said.
This story was reported from Atlanta.