CDC Offering Free At-home COVID Tests at Select U.S. Airports for Incoming International Travelers

The CDC is handing out free at-home COVID-19 test kits at select U.S. airports as the omicron variant continues to spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has started handing out free at-home COVID-19 test kits to incoming international travelers at a trio of airports across the country, and it plans to add more.

The agency is giving out the test kits at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Miami, Reuters reported. The CDC also intends to add Dallas/Fort Worth to the program, along with additional airports in the coming weeks.

Crowded Chicago Airport

"This initiative will quickly increase access to post-arrival COVID-19 testing for international travelers arriving in the United States," a CDC spokesperson told USA Today. "It is critical that travelers get tested 3-5 days after travel to help identify imported cases of COVID-19 and stop the spread of the virus."

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Travel + Leisure.

All international travelers heading to the U.S., including citizens, must get tested within one day of boarding a flight, regardless of their vaccination status. Previously, vaccinated travelers had 72 hours to get a test, but that timeline was shortened amid the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its first over-the-counter, fully at-home test in December 2020. Five months later, the CDC started allowing travelers to use at-home tests to enter the country from abroad, but requires them to be supervised virtually by a telehealth provider.

While vaccinated travelers are not required to get tested upon landing in the U.S., the agency recommends people get tested three to five days after returning from an international trip and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after returning from a domestic trip.

The decision to hand out the at-home test kits comes as holiday travel numbers are expected to come within 92% of 2019 levels. More than 109 million Americans are forecasted to travel for the holidays, according to AAA, including more than six million who will take to the skies.

When it comes to U.S. airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is seeing consistent crowds, and even screened more than 2.45 million passengers the Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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