Four Democratic lawmakers have penned a letter to Biden administration officials urging them to establish vaccine requirements for domestic air travel throughout the United States.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Reps. Don Beyer (D-Virginia), Eric Swalwell (D-California) and Ritchie Torres (D-New York) said in their letter that people seeking to travel within the U.S. should be required to provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to board a plane. The letter was addressed directly to Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Steve Dickson, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
To justify their concerns, the lawmakers cited the prevalence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which appears to be more transmissible than any other strain of the virus.
“Travel at our nation’s airports has essentially returned to pre-pandemic levels but the risk from COVID-19, including from its new variant Omicron, continues to present a major public health threat,” the lawmakers said. “Requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for domestic flights would improve public health and address concerns that passengers have about flying.”
Most Americans support this proposal, the Democrats noted. In a Harris Poll conducted last month, 66 percent of respondents said travelers on domestic flights should provide proof of vaccination before being allowed to board a plane.
This week, Swalwell shared his concerns about his flight to California on Twitter.
“On a flight now to Bay Area and it is one-hundred percent batty that the unvaccinated are allowed to fly,” Swalwell wrote. “It’s unsafe in the cabin and we are transporting the virus. Requiring the vaccine to fly is the LEAST we can do to stop the spread.”
The Democrats who wrote the letter aren’t the only lawmakers who support the idea of requiring proof of vaccination for domestic travel. In November, 36 Democratic lawmakers (including the four that wrote to Walensky and Dickson this week) made a similar appeal directly to President Joe Biden.
“This is a necessary and long overdue step toward ensuring all Americans feel safe and confident while traveling and reduce the chances of yet another devastating winter surge,” they said.
Several countries around the world require proof of Covid vaccination status for domestic travel, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union and a number of countries in the Middle East and Asia. But Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that requires passengers to present proof of vaccination before departing from other parts of the country.
In an opinion piece for The San Francisco Chronicle, aviation writer Roger Rapoport suggested that there could be another benefit to vaccine requirements on planes: such mandates would cut down on the high rate of violent outbursts reported on planes over the past year.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that a quick study of those being prosecuted for attacking flight crews over mask mandates and attempting to pack heat on board would indicate that many of these angry passengers are unvaccinated,” Rapoport said. “If I’m right, the White House would have another compelling reason to require domestic travelers to show proof of vaccination.”