Resorts and airports are adding COVID-19 testing amenities, but is it enough to protect Florida travelers?

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click to enlarge Passengers on a flight to Tunisia were all tested for COVID-19 before departing from Dubai. Emirates is the first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers. - IMAGE VIA EMIRATES

  • Image via Emirates
  • Passengers on a flight to Tunisia were all tested for COVID-19 before departing from Dubai. Emirates is the first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers.
While progress is finally being made in the fight against the deadly pandemic that has shut down most of the world, the fact remains it will be years before we will be truly beyond the threat COVID-19 poses. Even as vaccines begin to roll out, many nations remain hesitant to reopen their borders, especially to Americans who have shown their unwillingness to do what is necessary to slow the virus’ spread. This has meant many nations are now requiring proof of a vaccine or antibody test before admission into the country. Now, the United States has implemented the same rule.

Most nations, including the U.S., where negative tests are required for entry, mandate that such tests must have taken place within the previous 72 hours. This can pose a logistical problem for many travelers. So airports and travel destinations are working to ensure travelers can easily take the required tests with as little inconvenience as possible.

click to enlarge A volunteer traveler on the inaugural transatlantic trial of CommonPass prepares to board the flight from London to Newark. The CommonPass health pass allows travelers to securely share their COVID status across international borders while protecting their privacy. - IMAGE VIA BUSINESS WIRE | COMMONPASS

  • Image via Business Wire | CommonPass
  • A volunteer traveler on the inaugural transatlantic trial of CommonPass prepares to board the flight from London to Newark. The CommonPass health pass allows travelers to securely share their COVID status across international borders while protecting their privacy.

Tampa International Airport was the first in the nation to offer rapid on-site testing. In partnership with BayCare Health System, the program provides both rapid and the more reliable PCR tests. They are available to both departing and arriving passengers. The PCR test costs $125, with results provided within 48 hours, while the antigen test costs $57 and offers results within 15 minutes.

Orlando International launched its own on-site testing earlier this month, in partnership with AdventHealth Centra Care.

As travel begins to tick back up, testing is also rolling out at more resorts. Nearly two dozen resorts in St. Lucia now offer free rapid testing. Resorts throughout the Caribbean and Mexico are now looking at testing as a way to entice trepidatious travelers back to their beaches.

At Playa 17 resorts, guests who stay a certain number of nights are offered free tests with a guarantee that the results will be back in time for departure, or complimentary accommodations will be provided until the results are returned and a departure can be rescheduled. For those testing positive, the resorts will offer up to half off on accommodations so guests can quarantine for up to two weeks in style. Karisma Hotels offers a similar program, with positive cases resulting in the resort offering complimentary quarantine accommodations for up to 14 nights. La Collecion will provide positive cases quarantine accommodations for $10 a night, and telehealth assistance can be accessed for an additional $4 per night. AMResorts is also offering free quarantine-stay coverage should a guest test positive.

<!—->Six Flags has looked at possibly requiring negative tests, as have some hotels. Wynn Resorts CEO pushed for testing as a way to safely reopen more segments of the economy. Many hotels haven’t gone so far as to require guests have negative tests, but some believe the requirement may be a way to ease guest concerns. <!—->

The CDC traveler requirements are similar to ones that cruise lines tried to use to revive the stalled industry. That plan fell apart after a cruise filled with media and influencers had a positive case on board, causing the ship to go into lockdown and race back to port. Dozens onboard, many of whom covered the incident on social media in real time, faced uncertainty on how, or if, they would be able to return home. By the time the ship arrived in port, more than 10 percent of the 53 passengers on board the boutique vessel had tested positive.

A similar scenario played out just days later on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Singapore, though, thankfully, the incident proved to be a false positive. Still, the reliance on tests has some worried. Similar testing protocols proved unable to stop the virus’s spread on European river cruises. In late November, Florida Sen. Rick Scott tested positive for the virus after what he described as “several negative tests.”

Last week the FDA also issued a warning regarding false negatives when using the popular Curative test. According to BuzzFeed News, Curative was one of the tests regularly used by members of Congress and staffers. It was also used by numerous groups in Southern California, where medical facilities are overwhelmed by positive cases.

Despite the uncertainties around COVID testing, it is still one of the best ways to slow the virus’ spread while ensuring at least some aspects of normalcy can continue. Biden is standing by his pledge to get 100 million vaccines in arms by the end of April, which should help dramatically. Still, according to Dr. Fauci it will be a matter of months before herd immunity can be realized. The need for a negative test or proof of vaccination when traveling will likely remain in place as different nations face their own timelines for the vaccine rollout.

Just like the enhanced security screenings that became commonplace at the beginning of this century, health checks when traveling across international borders are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. For that, airports and resorts stand ready whenever travelers do feel it is safe to return.


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