The Biden Administration has stated that is is looking at a possible requirement that passengers wishing to fly domestically will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test, and this will not slow or stop the spread of Covid-19, it will actually cause a lot of problems, and here’s why. This is an editorial opinion by Ryan Cortez and independent current affairs writer.
The vast majority of travel in the United States is by motor vehicle, for personal reasons, vacations and a lot of business, remember it’s not only suited business professional that fly for business. All but two states have dozens or hundreds of un-monitored roads that cross state lines into other states. Every state in the continental U.S. have interstates passing across their state boarders without any checkpoints or other screening processes. Two states are so large that millions of people board flights that take off and land within the same state are California and Texas.
Next, there is still a critical shortage of accurate testing supplies in the United States. It’s important that there are testing supplies for those who are at high risk because they either may have been in close proximity to someone who tested positive, or are part of a higher risk group health wise. And though testing supplies are slowly increasing and should increase further under Biden’s use of the Defense Production Act to make more Covid-19 testing kits, it will still be a while before there are enough tests available that we can test people who otherwise have no medical reason to be tested. Additionally, since many air travelers fly multiple times a year, this domestic air travel testing requirement will take needed supplies away from those who really need to be tested and put it with those who don’t needed it medically.
To date, the CDC, the NIH, Johns Hopkins University and numerous other health experts around the world have said the risk of catching the Covid-19 virus from another passenger who does have it while onboard an aircraft is incredibly low, this is further backed up by the fact that there have been very few documented cases of someone having Covid-19 that acquired it from someone else while on an airplane. Furthermore, nearly all modern aircraft in commercial aviation service completely change out the air in the cabin every 2 - 3 minutes, not recycle it, but completely discharge all of the air in the cabin for new air from outside. According to a study done by the Department of Defense, Boeing, United Airlines, and Harvard University, flying is very safe in terms of the possibility of someone becoming infected on an airplane. The only commercial airplane that doesn’t completely exchange the air inside the cabin with new air is the Embraer ERJ145 50-seat plane used on some small regional flights.
Next, to limit air travel to those who have been able to find and get a Covid-19 test done before they fly will significantly limit the number of people who can fly. The airlines are already suffering from ridership as low as 40% compared to 2019 levels, an some estimates show if only negative test passengers can fly, the number of passengers will be artificially limited to about 250,000 per day, meaning the airlines will be back to about a 20% load factor at most. This means more layoffs and more Americans out of work who simply don’t need to be out of work. But even saying we can test an additional 250,000 people per day who are not medically in need is a bit optimistic, we just don’t have the spare testing capacity yet.
The additional economic damage will be major. Airlines will require an additional $27 billion in federal aid to stay in business, and that still doesn’t prevent more layoffs, that just keeps the ticket counters open. According to economist Richard Greenberg, a Treasury Department consultant, “this will cause an estimated $100 billion in economic damage. And you’re not just hurting the airlines themselves. You’re hurting airport concession workers, security, vendors, airport maintenance, suppliers who provide in-flight beverage and snack packs, paper boarding pass suppliers,.. the list goes on.”
Worse yet, with a negative Covid-19 test required and with the test being uncomfortable for most, painful for some, many will simply chose to drive, enabling the coronavirus to continue to spread anyhow. But now we’ve caused economic damage, put people out of work, further reduced the GDP, and created more havoc and resentment but with no gain.
The CDC has stated that is is still examining possibilities for requiring a negative Covid-19 test to fly, and the Biden Administration has said they will let science and data be the determining factor, but one can’t help but to wonder how bias government officials are given the onset of lobbying by Covid-19 test makers and others with a vested interest.
To be clear, Covid-19 is real. The pandemic is real. And everyone should take precautions that will help limit the spread of the virus including testing when appropriate, face masks, receive a safe vaccine that is effective, and maintain sanitary hygiene practices. As the Biden Administration said, data and science should be the guiding factor, therefore since the chance of acquiring Covid-19 on an airplane is extremely low, and since most people drive state to state, even in good times, the real threat are drivers and the testing should be on drivers who chose to drive as their mode of travel. In fact, shouldn’t we be testing drivers who drive more than 50 miles, setting up checkpoints around every city and at all state boarders to ensure people are negative for Covid-19 or is this reductio ad-absurdum?
Currently only international travelers are required to have a negative Covid-19 test, and this is a good thing since there are not roads connecting France to Florida or Germany to Georgia, China to Connecticut, air travel is the only way someone can bring Covid-19 into the country. Negative Covid-19 tests even make sense on flights to/from Hawaii, again since there are not roads connecting it to other states.
Herd immunity begins as low as 65% and is more ideal at 75% say nearly all medical professionals and infectious disease researchers. Even if we ignore those against vaccines, they represent a small minority of the population, that if everyone not against vaccines gets the Covid-19 vaccine, we will still reach herd immunity…, eventually as the vaccines become more available.