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CDC greenlights rapid COVID-19 test for international travelers

The letter explained that a significant portion of international general and business aviation is conducted on short notice. And while the CDC requires a negative test for flight crews and passengers within three days before boarding a flight to the United States, availability and logistics in some foreign locations can make such compliance challenging.

The letter added that “current international protocols are burdensome, time consuming, and have inherent limitations in processing large numbers of travelers.”

The CDC updated its guidance to permit the use of certain self-tests (often referred to as “home tests”), with proper oversight, to meet its pre-departure requirements. Compliant self-test kits must include a telehealth component affiliated with the manufacturer, which will provide real-time remote supervision of the test and ensure that results are recorded by the proper authorities in the United States.

“Many businesses and individuals have come to appreciate the efficiency and flexibility of general aviation for their international travel,” said Murray Huling, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “Use of these self-testing kits, which can produce results in as little as 15 minutes, will help alleviate undue burden on crew and passengers that may have difficulty in finding a test that allows them to stay compliant with the CDC. We applaud this move that strikes an important balance between safety and convenience.”

Crewmembers must be able to review and confirm the identity and results of each passenger. Passengers are also required to provide documentation of test results to officials at the port of entry, and to local or state health departments, if requested.

The guidance also adds that positive test results must be reported to proper authorities at the location of the crewmember or passenger. In the event of a positive test, the telehealth provider is also asked to counsel the traveler on what they and close contacts should do.

The updated guidance applies to all aviation, not just GA, and to U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike.

The CDC added that any self-test must be a SARS-CoV-2 viral test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Inconclusive test results would require a more extensive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, with additional protections to ensure passengers displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are ineligible for the expedited testing protocol.

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