More than four months ago, President Joe Biden made the announcement in a seemingly unscripted moment during an appearance 60 minutes That the covid-19 pandemic is over.
But on Tuesday, hours before the president delivered his annual State of the Union address to Congress, the Biden administration announced its opposition to a Republican-led effort to end one part of America’s longstanding pandemic policy: a vaccine mandate for all foreign travelers entering. US by air.
The White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement, “While COVID-19 is not as disruptive a threat as it once was, the administration opposes Congressional action to roll back the vaccination requirement for noncitizen nonimmigrants entering the United States by air.” “This policy has allowed loved ones around the world to reunite while reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the burden it has placed on the U.S. health care system.”
Rep. To ban enforcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccine mandate for foreign travelers. The statement was released in response to a bill sponsored by Thomas Massey (R–Ky.). In remarks on the House floor last month, Massey called the order “unscientific, unreasonable, [and] unconstitutional.”
“Why do we force visitors to this country to vaccinate just to visit their friends and family? Why are we separating families for this?” she said. “We have to end all mandates.”
The rationale for a vaccine mandate for foreign travelers to the United States may have made sense at an earlier stage of the epidemic. When the order was imposed in November 2021, it was a marked improvement on the ban on foreign travel that had been in place since March 2020. While far from ideal, it was a policy that reflected the changing realities of the pandemic—both the recognition of the efficacy of the Covid vaccine and the importance of returning to something like pre-pandemic norms when it came to individuals’ rights to travel and associate freely.
Now, however, the mandate seems to make little sense in a world where Covid has evolved into a serious health threat and where other similar policies have been cast aside. Last month, the vaccine mandate for members of the US military was dropped. Other mandates—such as some cities briefly imposed on patrons of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues—have similarly languished or never been enforced because courts blocked them.
And whatever logic dictated placing additional burdens on foreign travelers at the start of the pandemic — when countries were trying and failing to slow the spread of the virus — surely no longer applies. Once Covid becomes a global disease, there are no more restrictions on international travel than imposing the same rules on people crossing from Virginia to Washington, DC every day.
As part of the statement issued Tuesday, the White House pledged that the administration will “review all relevant policies, including this one,” when the current public health emergency declaration expires on May 11.
“As the establishment of this public health policy was guided by science, so should any termination or modification of this policy,” the White House statement said. “A vote for this bill undermines that critical principle.”
But what is that policy? That unvaccinated travelers from the United Kingdom somehow present a greater public health risk than unvaccinated Americans moving from state to state? There is no proof of this. Indeed, since the order applies only to air travel, the presumed principle is even more ambiguous. A Canadian flying to the U.S. must be vaccinated against COVID to protect America, the White House effectively says, but it Just the same Canadian can cross the border and no one will check his vaccine status.
CDC has no scientific policy mandating vaccines for foreign travelers. If Biden doesn’t do the obvious and take away the mandate soon, he should at least step out of the way and let Congress do it for him.