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Proposal Would Require Vaccination Or Testing For Air, Rail Travel

A nurse reaches for a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a pop up vaccine clinic in the Arleta neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
A nurse reaches for a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a pop up vaccine clinic in the Arleta neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

You want to get on a domestic flight and head anywhere in the United States? Get ready to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. That's the idea behind Northern Virginia Congressman Don Beyer's Safe Travels Act, which would also apply to Amtrak passengers.

Kenneth Button at George Mason University's Schar School says he expects opposition from the airline industry. "They want people to get on planes easily and get off planes easily with a minimum of disruption," Button says. "But I also think you have to look at the longer term picture. If people do get any form of transmission on the flights and it's demonstrated then the airline industry will have real problems in the longer term."

Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says mandating vaccinations to get on a flight is certain to bring a challenge in the courts. "I do think he'd have a better chance if he just simply said, 'You want to fly? You have to show that you've been tested in the last 72 hours' because that goes to whether or not a person has COVID. And so I think there's a legitimate challenge there."

Congressman Beyer says his bill is an easy step to make travel safer, adding that United airlines has already demonstrated mandates can work to help keep airline employees and passengers safe.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.