Vegas gets boost from decision to rescind testing edict | EDITORIAL

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

In a victory for common sense, Biden administration health officials have finally dropped the requirement that all air travelers to the United States show proof of a negative COVID test in order to enter the country.

The move will benefit Las Vegas, which depends on international air travel to bolster its tourism-based economy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed the testing edict in January 2021, and it applied to citizens and noncitizens alike. Inexplicably, however, there was no similar rule for those who walked or drove across the border. In addition, the order remained in place long after every state had dropped mask mandates and the pandemic was in recession.

“If the idea is to minimize the number of COVID cases in this country, the impact of entrance screening is negligible,” Dr. Luciana Borio, a former acting chief scientist at the FDA, told The New York Times. “We are at a point where we have the tools to minimize morbidity and mortality associated with the virus.”

The restriction has been a drag on international travel, discouraging foreign nationals from flying to the United States. Meanwhile, Americans who left the country risked becoming stranded for up to 10 days if they tested positive abroad. Many found a workaround by flying home instead through Canada or Mexico and then crossing the border by car.

The U.S. Travel Association estimates that dropping the order will bring an additional 5.4 million international visitors to the country over the next seven months, generating $9 billion in revenue. “The Biden administration is to be commended for this action,” said a statement from Roger Dow, the group’s president,” which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry.”

The virus devastated international travel to Las Vegas, and Southern Nevada has only begun to recover. In 2018, about 20 percent of visitors came here from another country, but that figure dropped to near zero in 2020. Easing the testing requirement will hasten the region’s recovery, particularly when it comes to convention business.

“While yet to be seen how much pent-up demand exists under the geopolitical and economic constraints that exist in the U.S. and around the globe,” Brendan Bussmann, an industry analyst and founder of Las Vegas-based B Global, told the Review-Journal, “the ability to travel without this restriction is great news for everyone.”

Many public health experts contended that the air travel testing mandate was not a major factor in limiting COVID spread, particularly when the virus was more prevalent in the United States than in many other nations. Pulling the plug on this requirement was the correct move.