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COVID-19 testing before flights may be ‘critical need’ in reducing spread, study says

Harvard University researchers said rapid testing at airports could reduce the spread of COVID-19

Travelers wear face masks while checking in at the ticket counter of Frontier Airlines in the main terminal of Denver International Airport late Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Denver. Harvard University researchers said rapid testing at airports could reduce spread of COVID.
Travelers wear face masks while checking in at the ticket counter of Frontier Airlines in the main terminal of Denver International Airport late Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. Harvard University researchers said rapid testing at airports could reduce spread of COVID-19.
Associated Press

Harvard University researchers recently reviewed how rapid testing at airports could reduce COVID-19 transmission during air travel.

The study found that rapid testing could be a critical need to reduce spread.

  • “Viral testing is an important public health screening mechanism that can quickly and efficiently identify those with infections and stop them from undergoing activities that could expose others, including potential travel,’’ Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a summary of the study.

The researchers said required testing for all travelers wouldn’t guarantee that flights don’t have someone with the coronavirus.

  • But rapid testing could serve a “critical need” to identify asymptomatic passengers and keep them off flights, USA Today reports.

The researchers said COVID-19 testing is more effective than temperature checks.

How do airlines feel?

In recent days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might push for a requirement of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight, according to The New York Times.

Airlines might not be on board for this. For example, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said testing could create struggles for the airline industry. And Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said any mandate requiring testing might be counterproductive to getting people to fly, according to USA Today.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines said it would continue to block middle seats on its flights through April in order to keep people safe on flights, as I wrote for the Deseret News. Southwest, JetBlue and Hawaiian had the same policy until December 2020 before dropping it.