Report: US Plan for Contact Tracing International Airline Passengers is Delayed

An ambitious plan by the White House to require domestic airlines to perform contact tracing on U.S.-bound international flights never really got off the ground, according to a new report by Reuters News Service.

In fact, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters that such a mandate is unlikely this year.

Talks began in June when the Trump administration and the airlines, prompted by the Centers for Disease Control’s desire to collect information on foreign passengers arriving in the U.S., put together an interagency working group. The group was supposed to come up with an interim solution by Sept. 1 to deal with the spread of the coronavirus.

Contact tracing is the ability to talk with people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in an effort to see who else they have been in contact with who might have been exposed to the virus.

After a White House meeting this week, airline and U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said no plan is likely to be adopted and in effect before the end of 2020.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Friday, “the White House continues to work with the airlines on the best solution to protect the health and safety of the public, not only during this ongoing pandemic but for future ones as well.”

A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group representing most U.S.-based airlines, said Friday the group continues “to work collaboratively with the federal government to implement contact tracing. We believe contact tracing is a key measure that will instill confidence for the traveling public that airlines and the federal government are prioritizing their health and safety.”

The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.

Airlines did say they support a website and mobile application for passengers to send contact information directly to the CDC.

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