Senator Dianne Feinstein today introduced a bill in the Senate that aims to prevent a new winter surge of COVID infections spurred by holiday travel. But between the airline industry and Senate Republicans, this seems doomed to fail out of the gate.
The bill, the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the FAA, to develop national vaccination standards and procedures related to COVID-19 and domestic air travel — and builds off the existing CDC policy that requires negative tests for international travelers entering the country. It would ostensibly require all airline passengers flying domestically to provide proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID test.
"We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge. We simply cannot allow that to happen again," Feinstein said in a statement.
The weirdest part about the bill, as written, is that it would allow air passengers to provide "written or electronic documentation of recovery from COVID–19 after previous SARS–CoV–2 infection" in lieu of proof of vaccination or a negative test — which... does anyone really have proof that they've had COVID already? What's that, like an easily forged note from your "doctor"?
Airlines have already pushed back on any notion of enforcing a vaccine mandate for domestic travel, and so far the Biden Administration has stopped short of requiring vaccination proof for even international arrivals.
The biggest issue, the airlines say, is the logistics of enforcement at airports.
"Requiring vaccinations to travel and not requiring vaccinations to do anything else around the country isn’t something we’re looking to do," said American Airlines CEO Doug Parker speaking to Kara Swisher at the New York Times last month. Parker added, "it wouldn’t be physically possible to do without enormous delays in the airline system."
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian similarly said in a TV interview, "the logistical challenge of getting vaccination paperwork and understanding exemptions, and who could travel and who wouldn’t, I think would cause a massive crimp on the operations."
And with flight attendants already becoming punching bags for Trumpy anti-maskers, you can only imagine what would happen if the anti-vaxxers were told they couldn't get on a plane.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, for his part, said earlier this month, "I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people that you should be vaccinated."
And as Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, told Bloomberg recently, "A travel requirement is low-hanging fruit. If you want the privilege of traveling, you need to get vaccinated."
Many Americans, though, see travel — like being able to be racist on Twitter — as a right and not a privilege. So this will likely never work.
And with Feinstein needing to find at least 10 Republican cronies to make a filibuster-proof majority for such a bill to pass, this seems like just busywork for old Dianne.
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