CDC to require negative Covid-19 test for international passengers flying to US

Travelers wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stand at check-in desks at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in west London on December 21, 2020.

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to sign today or Wednesday an order requiring all international passengers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding flights to the United States, a federal health official tells CNN.

The order will go into effect two weeks after it's signed by the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield. The new requirement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The rule is expected to be similar to one put in place last month for passengers from the UK to the US, which requires that passengers have a negative test within three days of boarding their flight.

For the UK requirement that went through last month, airlines can be subject to criminal penalties if they fail to comply, and passengers can be subject to criminal penalties if they willfully give false or misleading information.

An airline industry group has expressed support for the new measure.

"[We are] writing to express our support for a [CDC] proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States," the industry group Airlines for America wrote to Vice President Mike Pence on January 4.

The earlier requirement for UK travelers was a response to a new coronavirus variant that was identified in the UK. While the variant appears to spread more easily, there's no evidence that it's any more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to CDC.

At least 72 cases of a variant first identified in the UK have been found in 10 US states, according to data posted Monday by the CDC. That includes at least 32 cases in California, 22 cases in Florida, five cases in Minnesota, four cases in New York, three cases in Colorado, two cases in Connecticut, and one case each in Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Georgia.

The CDC says this does not represent the total number of cases circulating in the US, but rather just those that have been found by analyzing positive samples.

The variant has also been identified in dozens of countries worldwide.

Michael Nedelman and Jamie Gumbrecht contributed to this report.

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