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CDC won't recommend requiring COVID tests for domestic flights 'at this time'

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's not going to recommend that airline passengers be tested for COVID-19 before boarding domestic flights – at least, not right now.

"At this time, CDC is not recommending required point of departure testing for domestic travel," the public health agency said in a statement to USA TODAY. "As part of our close monitoring of the pandemic, in particular the continued spread of variants, we will continue to review public health options for containing and mitigating spread of COVID-19 in the travel space."

The agency reiterated its position, which is that no one should be traveling right now. But, it noted, "if someone must travel, they should get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before the trip. After travel, getting tested with a viral test 3-5 days post-travel and staying home and self-quarantining for 7 days, even if test results are negative, is a recommended public health measure to reduce risk."

USA TODAY has reached out to the CDC for comment on the reasoning behind its decision.

The CDC statement came hours after the leaders of several major U.S. airlines spoke with White House officials and pressed their case against requiring coronavirus tests for passengers on domestic flights, saying it would undermine the already fragile industry.

A person familiar with the discussions Friday said the Biden administration was not planning to impose a requirement that passengers on domestic flights first pass a coronavirus test.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki seemed to confirm that in a news briefing Friday, saying "reports that there is an intention to put in place new (travel) requirements such as testing are not accurate.''

The airline CEOs talked with White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients, according to the person, who spoke anonymously to discuss a private meeting.

The CEOs of American, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue all took part in the meeting. The White House declined to comment.

The meeting was arranged after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a testing requirement was under consideration.

“We had a very positive, constructive conversation focused on our shared commitment to science-based policies as we work together to end the pandemic, restore air travel and lead our nation toward recovery,” Nick Calio, head of the trade group Airlines for America, said in a statement.

Airlines are strongly opposed to requiring coronavirus testing before domestic flights. They say it would further devastate air travel, which has still not returned even to half its pre-pandemic level, and worry that the additional cost of a test would discourage people from flying.

The airlines argue that there isn't enough testing capacity to test every passenger. More than 1 million people passed through checkpoints at U.S. airports on Thursday, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration.

They also say that requiring people to take a coronavirus test before flights would cause more people to drive – merely shifting the risk of spreading the virus from planes to cars.

Airline unions have joined the push against testing domestic passengers. On Friday, the Southwest Airlines pilots' union said a testing mandate “would decimate domestic air travel demand, put aviation jobs at risk, and create serious unintended consequences.”

This article originally appeared on USA Today

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