I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The only way I see the travel industry bouncing back from this nightmare of a pandemic (besides finding a vaccine or cure, which seems to be many months, if not years, away) is by offering widespread, rapid, accurate, COVID-19 testing whereby people can get tested just before they enter airports, airplanes, hotels, cruise ships, trains, etc.
Airlines and airports know that this is their golden ticket, which is why they’ve been scrambling to partner with health companies to offer testing, especially when it comes to flights to Hawaii since the islands and many other destinations require proof of a negative reading within 72 hours prior to the final leg of departure. Otherwise, they have a strict 14-day quarantine, which most travelers don’t want to do or can’t afford to do, either financially or time-wise. It’s just not feasible.
United Airlines was the first to announce testing on flights out of San Francisco International (SFO). The following day, other airlines started offering testing around the country. Here’s the list of airlines offering COVID-19 testing and how much they charge.
If you read the above article, you have quickly figured out one of the deterrents about these polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests is that they’re not cheap. Another challenge facing travelers is getting test results in sufficient time. I have many friends who want to travel but aren’t because they can’t get their test results back in time for their destination to accept them as being valid. FYI: Each place is different so do your research on the requirements, not only how much time you have but which health care provider or test is accepted because not all are.
The good news is, as my buddy Gary Leff pointed out this morning, that “we have to be making progress when Costco.com is now selling a saliva PCR test online that promises results returned in 24-72 hours. That’s the range needed for many destinations (though the outer bound plus time to get the sample to the lab could run into a problem for other destinations as well). And it’s not the awful nasal swab, either.”
So, a new option for travelers who need to get a COVID-19 test is by either going to Costco or shopping online at Costco.com and getting their COVID-19 Saliva PCR Test Kit, Redeemed by AZOVA. It’s not cheap at $129.99. There’s a two-minute instructional video on their page, which basically shows you the kit they send you in the mail. You fill out the form, wash your hands and spit into a vile, then send it back. The kit comes with a return label and box that needs to be dropped off at UPS (preferably not on weekends since it will delay your results). NOTE: This item is only available online at Costco.com and is currently not available in PA, NV or MD.
As I wrote yesterday, unfortunately, I don’t think Hawaii is going to stay open for long without imposing the mandatory quarantine again because I can’t see how testing 72 hours prior to arrival is going to work. It’s obvious a lot can happen after taking a test 2-3 days before a trip, then easily being exposed by either going to a super-spreader event or even to dinner at a friend’s house. I also don’t trust people to follow the simple directions or even worse, have someone else take their test because they know they have the virus but are too selfish to quarantine. On top of that, when you take the test you could be in the early stages of the virus so it won’t show up in your tests yet.
A good example is what happened this week in New Zealand when 237 Russian and Ukrainian fishermen flew on a chartered flight from Moscow via Singapore (they didn’t get off the plane) and then to Christchurch. They were all given PCR tests prior to the flight and still 18 of them (and counting) have now tested positive. Here’s that story.
As quoted in the post above, one Australian publication wrote, “Hopes that pre-flight virus tests could replace quarantine were dealt a fresh blow after it emerged 18 overseas arrivals into New Zealand tested positive for COVID despite a negative result prior to departure.”
Obviously I hope I’m wrong because I can’t wait to get back to traveling the world and flying the friendly skies (it’s one of my happy places) but I’m just keeping it real so you can make an informed decision.
If you are going to fly, you will probably want to have a middle seat open next to you so choose one of these airlines. You will also be happy to read about the recent testing done to determine how safe the air on airplanes actually is.
If you are flying, use basic safety measures like washing your hands frequently, wiping down your personal space, wearing a mask and keeping your distance. I also learned yesterday from a doctor to wear a face shield or goggles for boarding and deplaning.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you live in the Bay Area or are passing through, the Oakland International Airport offers free COVID-19 testing for…
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