MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - As the U.S. begins enforcing stricter travel requirements in an effort to combat COVID-19 and its new variant, travelers flying in and out of South Florida airports are greeting the safety measures with mixed emotions.
The Biden administration has started implementing a new rule requiring international travelers to show a negative COVID test just one day before their flight.
Officials urge these travelers to view their check-in as a 24-hour process, beginning with taking the coronavirus test, in order to make their window and show those negative results.
The new rule, which went into effect on Monday, narrows the test window from three days to one.
Health officials said they are moving quickly in an effort to slow down the virus’ spread.
“We’re following [the cases] closely, and we are more and more hearing every day about more probable cases, so that number is likely to rise,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Travelers at Miami International Airport who spoke with 7News have questions, to say the least.
“Even when fully vaccinated?” asked one traveler.
That is the case. Officials with the CDC said the tighter testing timeline applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers alike.
“It’s a moving target when you’re trying to travel,” said traveler John Harper, who was heading to London.
Some passengers said they’re on board for the tighter test window.
“It’s fine, it’s OK because you need to get protected and protect others. It’s a good measure,” said traveler Daniel Pierda.
But frequent flyer Keli Oliver views the change as yet another obstacle in her busy itinerary.
“It does make sense. However, it’s pretty inconvenient for everyone trying to travel and get that done when you’re trying to pack and head for your flight,” she said.
Others said they were not even aware of the new requirement.
“I’d already bought my tickets. I didn’t know that beforehand,” said international traveler Mary Luz Rojo, “so it keeps changing all the time.”
Rojo, a graduate student from Spain, was heading home for the winter holiday. She said she plans to return to the U.S. in January to resume her studies.
“My flight back is on a Monday, so I wonder where I’m going to get tested on a Sunday and get results within the same day,” she said, “so it’s really a hassle to be dealing with grad school and then the stress of not knowing if I’m going to be able to get back on time.”
Kyle Bidwell is trying to get back home to Florida from Brazil, but the new guidelines have him grounded.
“Yeah, trying to find the same-day COVID testing site, or they won’t let us on a plane to get back,” he said.
As of Monday night, no cases of the new variant have been reported, but at least 17 other states and more than two dozen countries have.
Meanwhile, scientists are studying how well current vaccines protect against the omicron variant.
Speaking with Fox News Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy asked people to remain aware and cautious this holiday season.
“I do think it’s a reason for us to not necessarily panic, but just to be more vigilant, and to recognize that the precautions that we have been talking about for the last year or so are all the more important now than ever,” he said.
Face coverings will be required at airports across the country until at least March 2022.
“I think we’ll get there. It’s not easy to travel at the moment,” said Harper.
Health officials said the available COVID vaccines and booster shots are the best current defense against the new strain.
Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
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