- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2021

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci reportedly revealed that he would back COVID-19 vaccine mandates for air travel, causing some in the industry to push back this week.

Dr. Fauci said in an interview with the “Skimm This” podcast, “if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people that you should be vaccinated,” The Hill reported Sunday evening. The interview was taped Friday and is expected to be released Thursday.

Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president of public affairs, disagreed on Monday, pointing to studies that she said “overwhelmingly points to the safety of air travel” if masks are worn. She added the proper tools for safe air travel are already in place, including the federal mask mandate that applies to public transportation and U.S. airports through January.

U.S. Travel has long maintained that there should be no mandatory vaccination requirement for domestic travel. Such a policy would have an unfair, negative impact on families with young children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine,” she said in a statement Monday. “While U.S. Travel does not endorse a national vaccine mandate, we continue to believe that vaccines are the fastest path back to normalcy for all, and we strongly encourage all who are eligible to get a vaccine immediately to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors.”

Dr. Fauci’s expressed support for a travel vaccine mandate follows the introduction of legislation last week by Rep. Don Beyer, Virginia Democrat, that would require travelers on Amtrak and commercial airlines to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of traveling.

The bill, which is called the Safe Travel Act, would also require employees and contractors of commercial airlines and Amtrak to show they are fully vaccinated or offer a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis.

Dr. Fauci, who is President Biden’s chief medical adviser, told The Washington Post on Monday that while he supports a vaccine mandate for travel, he isn’t proposing it.

There is currently no federal policy mandating testing or vaccinations for U.S. travel

CEOs of major airlines, including Scott Kirby of United, have described that type of mandate as “logistically impractical” and unlikely to happen as reported by MSNBC. 

Delta CEO Ed Bastian has also cast doubt about a vaccine mandate for U.S. travelers, and told “CBS This Morning” that it would be a logistical dilemma and “bottleneck the domestic travel system.”

However, passengers for all airliners, buses and trains are required to wear face coverings until at least Jan. 18, 2022, under a federal mask mandate.

Last month, United became the first large airline to mandate vaccines for its employees. Frontier and Hawaiin are also requiring their workers to be fully vaccinated. However, none of the airlines are mandating passengers to be vaccinated. 

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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