By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Thursday rejected media reports it is considering any new domestic air travel restrictions.
“To be clear, there have been no decisions made around additional public health measures for domestic travel safety. The administration is continuing to discuss recommendations across the travel space, but no specific decisions are under consideration,” a White House spokesman told Reuters.
Reports that the administration was considering imposing restrictions on travel to Florida brought denunciations from many Republican lawmakers.
The chief executives of major U.S. airlines are scheduled to meet virtually on Friday with the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator to discuss travel-related issues, Reuters reported Wednesday.
The meeting with coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients and other administration officials involved in COVID-19 issues comes as airlines, aviation unions and other industry groups have strongly objected to the possibility of requiring COVID-19 testing before boarding domestic flights.
Southwest Airlines Co Chief Executive Gary Kelly and the leaders of the airline’s unions urged President Joe Biden in a letter not to mandate COVID-19 testing, saying it would put “jobs at risk.”
“Such a mandate would be counterproductive, costly, and have serious unintended consequences,” said the letter, which was dated Tuesday and released on Wednesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month said the Biden administration was “actively looking” at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing to U.S. domestic flights. The CDC on Jan. 26 began requiring negative COVID-19 tests or evidence of recovery from the disease from nearly all U.S.-bound international passengers age 2 and older.
One idea that has been under review within the Biden administration is for the CDC to issue recommendations advising against travel to areas of the United States with high COVID-19 caseloads, but no decisions have been made and recommendations would not be binding, officials said.
CDC officials have repeatedly urged Americans not to travel unless necessary.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)