Story at a glance

  • CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday said the agency is ramping up testing and surveillance in collaboration with XpresCheck, a testing service at airport terminals, at four key international airports.
  • “This program allows for increased Covid testing for specific international arrivals, increasing our capacity to identify those with COVID-19 on arrival to the United States, and enhancing our surveillance for the omicron variant,” Walensky said.
  • The effort is an expansion of a biosurveillance program that started in September.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding its current COVID-19 variant surveillance program at several major U.S. airports in an effort to detect the new omicron variant. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday said the agency is ramping up testing and surveillance in collaboration with XpresCheck, a testing service at airport terminals, at four key international airports around the country, including those that have direct flights to and from South Africa, where the variant was first discovered. 

“As we have done throughout the pandemic, CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight, and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantine,” Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing. 


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“Currently, CDC is expanding a surveillance program with XpresCheck to JFK, San Francisco, Newark and Atlanta airports, four of the busiest international airports in the country,” Walensky said. 

“This program allows for increased Covid testing for specific international arrivals, increasing our capacity to identify those with COVID-19 on arrival to the United States, and enhancing our surveillance for the omicron variant,” she added. 

The program will test passengers entering the U.S. traveling from southern Africa, including those making connections through Europe, XpresCheck said in a release

Walensky said the agency is also working with airlines to collect passenger information that can be used to ramp up contact tracing efforts. 

The effort is an expansion of a biosurveillance program that started in September that provided testing for travelers from India at JFK, Newark and San Francisco airports. 

The Biden administration imposed travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other African countries in an effort to control the spread of the new omicron variant. 

The new travel restrictions do not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents, though they must show proof of a negative test prior to traveling to the U.S.


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Published on Nov 30, 2021