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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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COVID Test for Return Travel Is Stupid

Last March, I wrote Describe Trump’s Travel Ban: It’s Stupid. Today I use the word stupid again to describe the US’s requirement that travelers returning from abroad need to present a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours from the date of travel. Next week, I am going to Colombia (see Don’t Route Via Panama), the next step in my IQKhameleon odyssey. Colombia, like North Korea, is on the Level 4, Do Not Travel List (see North Korea – Level 4: Do Not Travel). This means that COVID is hanging out on every street corner, every bar, and every crevice. If by some chance, I can’t outrun its menacing ways like Barry Sanders (see Barry Sanders Reveals Breakthrough Case), I won’t be able to return to the US until I produce a negative test. Here’s why that is stupid:

  1. Like a termite infestation, the virus is already all over the US. Even if I’m contagious, I’m not bringing back something that isn’t already here.
  2. Testing is inaccurate. Someone who takes an antigen test is less likely to produce a positive result than taking a PCR test. Travelers looking to minimize the chance of being stuck will opt for this test, partially defeating the point of being tested.
  3. Being vigilant is a myth. I am not going to lie. If an indoor bar is open, I’m going in for a drink. Second, even if I were on my best behavior and did nothing but double mask and keep my distance, it is a myth to believe that this will absolutely ward off infection. If it’s in the air, it’s in the air. There’s still a chance of a breakthrough case (see Breakthrough Infections: Another Reason Not to Travel).
  4. I can still drink and eat on a plane! How is taking my mask off on a plane safe? Maybe I will be negative 72 hours before but what are the chances of infection from flying? I’m not buying that the air in a plane is COVID free.
  5. COVID isn’t going anywhere: The point of the vaccine is to stop people from dying. It is not going to stop people from getting infected. It is the unvaccinated that should be making the adjustments in their lives. They are the ones that should not be allowed to fly because they are the ones who are holding the rest of us hostage by rules that try to accommodate their ignorance.

I want to get back to normal. Normal means that I may get infected. I might get sick. That’s a risk I am willing to take.

a glass of wine on a table with a city in the background
What happens in the winter?







  1. Agreed! Covid is real and sounds pretty horrible to get. But it is hard to take some of these precautions seriously, wash my hands and hope for the best is how I am approaching this all since I am vaccinated. It is hard to take anyone seriously who pushes masks and then hosts parties without them, I don’t care what party you belong to or your claim of negative testing. Testing has not been consistently correct. Lead by example or stop hawking it.

    Our states governor wants to spend a lot of pandemic money building electric car chargers in our state. I am supposed to wear a mask on the plane/train that someone might have sewn in their basement. Why isn’t pandemic money in my state being used to give us all N95 masks then? Seems like it would keep us all safer from Covid than electric car chargers. The world has gone mad.

    • How’s it on the traveler? Smug to blame someone for testing positive. Can still take every precaution like so many have and end up positive.

      • Because the traveler got COVID. To be clear, I had enough leave and money should I or my wife have tested positive. The airfares to most foreign destinations are dirt cheap because of the risk of testing positive. We got $450 round trip fares on Delta One from New York to Bogota. In normal times $450 round trip in economy is a okay fare if not bought months in advance. I got a killer deal on the airfare as did you likely and we both priced in the risk of testing positive.

  2. I’m surprised, given your background, you didn’t address legal issues with the “test negative to return” requirement. I know the government takes shelter under the legal fiction that it’s not the government denying citizens entry, but instead the airlines denying boarding. Yet the reality seems that this regulatory scheme results in a de facto denial of entry to citizens by the government. Thoughts?

  3. All this goes away when we largely vaccinate the entire world. Until then, mutations can and will develop and wreck havoc on many things including international travel. Your want for the things to return to normal, won’t happen until we have vaccinated most of the world against COVID.

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