US COVID International Air Testing Requirement Dies at 17 Months of Age

Government Regulation

The US COVID testing requirement for inbound international air travelers, “Testy” for short, died on Friday, June 10 just before turning 17 months of age. His sudden death was oft-rumored but never truly expected. He will not be missed.

Testy was conceived on November 20, 2020 when his mother, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), began suggesting that travelers get tested between 1 and 3 days before flying. After an unusually short gestation, Testy was born on December 24. He started out small, only as a requirement for those flying to the US from the United Kingdom, but he was destined from the start to be a big deal.

Testy flourished in his early days, and by January 26, 2021, he was imposing his will on anyone flying into the United States — assuming they were allowed to enter the country at all — regardless of origin country or citizenship.

It did not take long for Testy to discover the full weight of his abilities, forcing countless travelers to hole up in a hotel or at home abroad just because Testy decided to show off two lines instead of one. He struck fear into the hearts of many, and not just those who traveled abroad. Those who stayed home feared Testy as well to the point that they called off their travels rather than risk subjecting themselves to his fickle nature.

Testy’s power reached its apex on November 8, 2021. That day, travel bans were removed and travelers from most countries countries around the world were allowed to fly to the United States, but only if they were vaccinated and only if they got Testy’s approval before boarding an airplane. Something changed in Testy that day. Drunk with power, Testy began to slip toward his eventual end.

Testy increasingly became paranoid later in life. On December 6, 2021, he forced all travelers to use him within 1 day of travel instead of the previous 3 day requirement. He believed they were all trying to sneak something past him, so he tightened his grip as best he could. But as his delusion grew, travelers found more and more ways to pass him by.

Since Testy could only wield his power over those flying on airplanes, some travelers took advantage of crossing into the US via land borders, avoiding Testy’s wrath entirely. Testy’s arch-nemesis, the Cross Border Xpress, brazenly allowed travelers to fly to Tijuana and walk right over the airport’s bridge into the US without a single test.

Others tried to make Testy feel wanted. They bought multiple units, knowing that even if Testy showed a positive result, his relatively inaccuracy meant that they could try, try, try again until eventually Testy changed his mind.

Still others relied on trickery, playing “swap the swab” as they took their tests, bypassing Testy’s whims entirely despite the watchful eye of his Zoom-based henchmen.

In the end, Testy became more isolated and less useful, but he never admitted defeat. If he was ill, his mother failed to disclose that to anyone who might have benefited from the knowledge. He died this past Friday, June 10, leaving everyone scrambling to understand what a Testy-less future would bring.

Testy may have been hated when he was alive, but he leaves behind an also-hated legacy of higher fares. The increase in demand for travel after the passing of Testy is bound to further stretch the limited airline capacity that is flying internationally. Whether in life or death, if nothing else, Testy always found a way to expertly make people angry through his actions.

Testy is survived by the requirement that all non-citizens must still be vaccinated for COVID before flying to the US as well as by eMed… whose life was so intertwined with Testy that her very own survival is at risk.

38 comments on “US COVID International Air Testing Requirement Dies at 17 Months of Age

  1. Satirical anthropomorphized obituaries from Cranky are always fun to read, and this was no exception.

    May Testy rest in pieces in thousands of landfills the world over. He will definitely not be missed.

        1. The Babylon Bee also produces some decent satire/parody, but from a very different angle from The Onion. I appreciate both of them at times, regardless of whether I agree with their views or not (trying to avoid politics here), because when satire/parody is done well, it tends to make you think, whether you agree with it or not.

  2. The fun part about Testy was the burden it put on airline staff. Every test agency had a different form. None really had an authentication. Its almost like you could beat Testy with some clip art/cut paste by bringing using a dark art and brining back the ghost of. . .Clippy. . . .

  3. One of the most interesting aspects of Testy and his sister, Masky, was the absurdity to which airlines had to go to meet federal requirements. Last fall, we flew from Chicago to Rome via Frankfurt. Everyone was vaccinated and had a close encounter with Testy that certified they were Covid-19 free.

    Nonetheless, when we boarded the plane for Europe — and later for America — everybody on the plane wore masks. If there was no Covid on the plane, based on Testy saying so, why did we wear masks?

    Bureaucrats run amok?

    1. I’m not sure if you’re skeptical of the tests, the masks, or both, but I’ll try for a non-hyperbolic reply: A negative test decreases the likelihood that somebody has Covid but doesn’t eliminate it. Wearing masks makes transmission harder but not impossible. So the narrow answer to the question that you asked is “because it’s still possible that people on the plane were infectious, although the likelihood was decreased by the testing.”

      Still, the rationale for the testing requirement was never contagion on the plane. (This is clear because there was no testing requirement for outbound or domestic flying.) The idea was to stop the disease from spreading from one place to another–which is pretty self-evidently silly when the disease is widespread at both origin and destination.

      The mask requirement on planes (or elsewhere) remains defensible from the narrow perspective of infectious disease spread. I’m going to care for a Covid patient this afternoon, and you can bet I’ll be wearing an N95. The airline mask mandate ended because of the idea that with vaccines more widely available, people should be allowed to choose masking (or not) for themselves.

      1. I appreciate your comments — I truly do. I get there is still a risk of transmission. But, what was never clear was the probability of transmission on an airplane given that everyone was vaccinated and tested within 48 hours.

        The number had to be very, very low.

        If we want to defend masking on the basis of infectious disease. If that’s the basis for wearing masks, then we should still be wearing them, as many of my friends believe. Nonetheless, the majority of Americans have spoken and both Masky and Testy are gone!

  4. I wonder if Novak Djokovic will be flying into Tijuana and walking across the Cross Border Express after Wimbledon. “Capitalism breathes through those loopholes.” Ludwig von Mises

  5. Wearing a mask and getting tested seemed to be a big inconvenience for a lot of you people. I hated it myself, but I did it out of caring for others and my self. I lost 2 relatives to covid so it really hit home. I am amazed at the utter selfishness and broken down reasoning to avoid complying included in this article and the responses. I have read this column for a while now…as big an avgeek as I am I have enjoyed it, but this is my last one. Not that I will be missed, but I personally will feel better. I will get my aviation news elsewhere.

    1. TDF – It’s a very strange reaction to a comedic post about the end of the testing requirement, but nobody is going to try to change your decision.
      That being said, I would like to add some more context because I do think that some of the comments have gone in ways that do not share my views.

      I never had a problem with masks and still don’t. Testing, however, is a different story. I have to imagine everyone knows someone who died from COVID in one way or another. But the world that existed when COVID first came out is different than what we have now. We not only have highly effective vaccines but we have treatments for people when they get sick.
      There is so much care available that COVID should be treated as endemic, like the flu or a cold, when it comes to travel.

      The testing requirement put an undue burden on American travelers — unlike masks which were a very minor burden — because if they tested positive it would require significant expense and disruption to stay away for days and days until being allowed back in to the US. Airplanes are not very good at transmitting the disease, which is good, but that really wasn’t the point of the requirement anyway. The requirement was a misguided effort to prevent people with disease from far away from bringing that to the US.
      The problem is that it is not effective in doing that. By the time a new variant has been identified, it is already in the US and spreading. Just look at Omicron.

      I support things that have an actual impact or have a very minor burden.
      Testing did neither.

      1. You’re missing an angle. Someone gets covid, knows they have it and hops a plane — easier and cheaper to quarantine at home, after all. None of the other folks on the plane know they’ve joined a super-spreader event but they are, shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who’s highly contagious (and neither’s required to wear a mask!). So you’ve shifted the burden on the person who’s contagious to the people who are vulnerable. In the prisoner’s dilemma everyone’s better off if the contagious person bears the cost, but instead they defect (back to the US) and everyone else pays the price.

        1. emac – I’m not missing that angle. People do this with colds and flus all the time, and that’s how it seems like we should be treating this now. I’d have no issues with someone showing symptoms being told they need to wear a mask. That’d be great for colds and flus too while we’re at it.

      2. Comedic? I found nothing funny. How cavalier…everyone lost someone to COVID. Really? If people didn’t bring COVID to the US how did it get here? Airfares going up was as predictable as the sun coming up. I recently paid 30% more for first class tickets to a destination I went to 6 months ago. I do appreciate your attempt to explain yourself, but you made it worse.

    2. Where does it end? If it is “selfish” not to want to wear a mask to deal with Covid, isn’t it the same with the flu? I mean, at risk people catch the flu and die from it too. We could stop that if everyone wore a mask 24-7 outside their houses.

      It is selfish to drive 70 mph because someone might be killed in a wreck. Let’s all drive 25.

      Or instead, people could actually be responsible for themselves.

      To me, it is the responsibility of an at risk person to protect themselves.

      If one kid has a peanut allergy we don’t outlaw peanuts or ban them from school. Nor should we. And I say that Ada man whose nephew has to carry an epi pen due to such an allergy.

      If you are at risk, protect yourself. Don’t expect me to do it for you.

      And I also had two uncles that died of Covid, both of which were at risk.

      1. COVID has settled in as a top 3 cause of death in the US (?300,000 deaths/year), joining cancer and heart disease (?600,000 deaths/year each). Unlike cancer and heart disease, COVID is highly contagious. We have simple interventions that drastically reduce the risk of dying from and transmitting COVID. Influenza is a top-10 killer (?50,000 deaths/year), and the top contagious disease killer other than COVID, but much less contagious and kills about a tenth as many people (and the masking and distancing measures that reduce COVID spread reduce influenza spread far more effectively).

        If we as a society could eliminate half of cancer deaths by something as simple and non-intrusive as wearing masks when sharing air space with others, would we? I sure would, and I’d vote to use laws to require others to, just like we use laws to require airplanes and cars to meet safety standards and to prohibit drunk driving and drunk flying and speeding and firing guns in crowded places.

        All that said, given that Americans (and Canadians, where I live) have largely given up on preventing the preventable COVID deaths beyond getting vaccinated (and even that is embarrassingly and criminally low in the US), I don’t think travel is any *more* dangerous than lots of everyday things. So there’s a logic to saying we don’t care about others in our society in everyday life, so why should we care when it comes to travel?

        (Source for stats: CDC https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm)

        1. Alex – To say that COVID has settled at that point using that data source is not right. That is using 2020 data. The reality is that COVID is far from settling, but the last 90 days put us on a run rate of 150,000 deaths a year.
          https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_dailydeaths

          On top of that, the death rate for those who get vaccinated is far lower.
          https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/united-states-rates-of-covid-19-deaths-by-vaccination-status?country=~All+ages

          1. Going back to the end of the last wave (90 days) is cherrypicking data. In the last 12 months, 399,404 people have died, according to the cumulative deaths panel on that CDC page, meaning I actually undersold the death rate: the death rate is *higher* in the last 12 months, even though vaccines have been widely available that whole time in the US, than it was in 2020. But the point stands: whether it’s 150,000 or 400,000, COVID remains a top-three or top-five killer in the US, and the only cause of death in the top five that can be dramatically reduced with something as simple as masks and vaccines, and multiple times as deadly as influenza (the direct reply to John G’s point).

            We’re not in a wave right now, but I think it’s highly, highly unlikely that we’ve seen the last wave, especially if we continue to avoid basic, effective public health measures like masking. But as you say, it’s also true that travel is a pretty small contributor to the overall spread of the virus given how widespread it is now. I don’t think travel is any more or less risky per hour than going to the grocery store or the office or a social gathering, and people spend a heck of a lot more hours doing all of those things than travelling.

      2. Re:
        “It is selfish to drive 70 mph because someone might be killed in a wreck. Let’s all drive 25.

        Or instead, people could actually be responsible for themselves.

        To me, it is the responsibility of an at risk person to protect themselves.”

        This completely ignores that in many places its nearly impossible to live without driving. Moreso it ignores that people who are at risk have no way of controlling that risk. Specifically pedestrians are more likely to be fatally or seriously injured by speeding vehicles, and 25 miles per hour is the inflection point where faster speeds become unacceptably likely to kill a pedestrian. But in the US we’re so individualistic who cares if we kill someone else just to get to where we’re going a bit faster?

        Likewise with travel, the dropping of the mask mandate was borderline criminal in how it was applied. No, I’m not talking about the specifics of the Florida judge, I’m talking about airlines and crews that chose to announce and implement the change midflight.

        I’m for testing and requiring masks based on the results of that test, as well as requiring those exhibiting infectious disease symptoms to mask, because that protects everyone.

        Its not perfect, but like good airline safety the more layers you can apply the more likely the holes in the swiss cheese will not line up.

      3. “If you are at risk, protect yourself. Don’t expect me to do it for you.”

        Ah, the American dream, now also being subverted in the UK, too. The pandemic would not have caused this much ongoing disruption had people simply been willing to give a shit about other people. But they’re not willing to. They’re too ‘exceptional’ for that. What a race to the bottom the US and UK are in.

  6. Having flown to the US, Trinidad and Mexico recently from Australia, the requirement for testing 1 day before travel was the real kicker. Particularly the requirement even if you were just transiting through the US (as I did between Trinidad and Mexico).

    RIP Testy, you will most definitely not be missed

  7. Now i want a CF art with CBX saying: “Tests? We ain’t go no tests! We don’t need no tests! I don’t have to show you any stinking tests!” to the CDC.

  8. Cranky, do you have an opinion on vaccinated Americans traveling to Portugal? Does Testy live on in Lisbon?

    1. Jimmy – An opinion? I’m not sure what the current roles are in Portugal, but you can check at crankyconcierge.com/sherpa

      1. There is great confusion about whether a US CDC vaccination card is accepted as “proof of vaccination” when entering Portugal. I haven’t come across any similar troubles in the rest of Europe. I was wondering if Cranky Concierge had run into this.

        1. Jimmy – I haven’t seen anything with that, but I know we’ve had plenty of people traveling to Portugal. I am not sure.

          1. I just got an email from Lufthansa that vaccination is no longer required to enter Germany. Not sure if the lifting of that entry requirement applies only to Germany, or if it applies to the whole EU

            1. Lifting of the vaccination requirement for Germany was effective June 11, 2022 and stated that “travelers entering Germany will no longer need proof of Covid-19 vaccination, recovery, or a negative test result”

        2. I just went to Portugal last week. A CDC vaccination card is NOT accepted as proof of vaccination. You’ll need to get tested before you go.

          1. Yep. I’m going to Portugal in a few weeks. I’m really hoping they drop the testing requirement OR allow the CDC vaccine card as proof.

            We are planning to party like it’s 2020 and quarantine ourselves for 10 days to get the negative test required.

            But at least we won’t get stranded and be unable to get back to the U.S.!

  9. I just flew to Mexico for 2 days (one night). To comply with the requirement, I got a test in Miami before the flight-so I can return back to Miami

  10. I’m curious if we there was a significant amount of people who couldn’t fly due to testing positive, instead flying into airports in Canada or Mexico, driving across the border, then flying domestically to their destination.

    CF, did you see any instances of this?

    1. Nick – We’ve seen it. We had one guy a month or two ago fly from Colombia to Tijuana and walk across. He didn’t have to fly from there since he lived in Southern California. It’s not a huge number of people. I think most who have real concerns about being able to get home end up just not going international.

      1. We may, have taken the Greyhound from Montreal to Burlington and then flew home from Burlington due to testing positive.

        Greyhound was super easy, and it was a fun way to travel that I would not normally do. Spent an afternoon in Burlington, which would never normally be a destination, but now I can say I have been there.

  11. I am one of the beneficiaries of the Covid test before U.S. entry requirement being cancelled.

    On Saturday, I tested positive for Covid on a cruise ship, and flew home yesterday. I was wearing a mask at all times that I was not eating during the three flights it took to get from Barcelona to Louisville. JFK was the first stop. At Passport Control there were several hundred people, and the wait to clear that station took at least 1/2 hour. The room was not well-ventilated and a significant number of people were not wearing masks. If I was not the only one with a recent positive Covid test, I can see where a new outbreak of cases could have been born., just in the time I was there.

    Although I was a beneficiary of the cancellation, I could see the case FOR the rule being made as I stood in the queue,

    1. Probably a better case for requiring masks in the airport versus on the plane once in flight. (And masks in flight are also a good thing, but they have better ventilation than the customs hall.)

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