Domestic travel vaccine mandate back in spotlight


The debate over requiring COVID-19 vaccines for domestic travel is back in the spotlight this week, despite pushback from the business community and the potential for strong backlash if the Biden administration imposes such a mandate.

The White House said that a potential mandate is not off the table, and the uptick in COVID-19 cases brought on by the highly transmissible omicron variant has raised questions over whether a requirement is another way to keep Americans safe.

President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday that the administration is discussing a mandate, but pointed to the safety of the mask requirement in place for all U.S. transportation networks.

“When you’re dealing with domestic flights, you want to keep people safe on domestic flights. And as I said, right now, we feel that the masking requirement and the degree of filtration on a plane is sufficient to keep people safe,” Fauci told reporters during a White House COVID-19 response team briefing. “If there’s a need to do more beyond this masking, mainly having a vaccine issue, we will seriously consider that as new information arises.”

Airline lobby: Airlines and other business groups oppose a vaccine and testing requirement for domestic air travel. Delta Air Lines on Wednesday reiterated their position that the health protections on airlines enable safe travel, pointing to the hospital grade filtration systems and masking onboard aircraft and inside airports.

The administration is already facing criticism for new guidelines that halved the isolation time for people who are asymptomatic or showing improved symptoms, which came after pressure from the airline industry.