As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third winter, cases in the U.S. are on the rise and officials are wary about the potential implications of the newly discovered Omicron variant. Last week, President Biden announced new rules and initiatives to limit the spread of the disease this winter, around the same time some local governments adjusted their own ordinances. These are the recently enacted rules that Americans must follow because of COVID. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
On Thursday, President Biden announced that starting next week, international travelers to the U.S.—including Americans who are re-entering the country after travel—must take a COVID test no more than one day before their flight, regardless of vaccination status. People who have recently recovered from COVID may provide "proof of recovery" instead.
Masking During Travel
Mask requirements on planes, trains and buses have been extended until mid-March, and fines for violating that mandate have been doubled. In a statement, the White House said: "The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel—as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals— through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter. The Transportation Security Administration will extend its implementing orders to maintain these requirements through March 18. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the masking requirements—with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders."
Insurance Companies Must Pay For COVID Testing
A new rule that all American insurance companies must follow: Biden is also requiring them to reimburse policyholders for at-home COVID tests. (Those rapid test kits—available at pharmacies and from online retailers like Amazon—currently cost about $20 each.) The new rule takes effect sometime next year, the administration said in a statement, elaborating: "To expand access and affordability of at-home COVID-19 tests, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury will issue guidance by January 15th to clarify that individuals who purchase [over-the-counter] COVID-19 diagnostic tests will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurance issuer and have insurance cover the cost during the public health emergency."
Masking in Public
In recent weeks, several states and localities across the country have revived or extended mask mandates, including Denver, the Chelsea district of Boston and Chicago. In Oregon, officials debated whether to make a mask mandate permanent. But at the same time, several areas have eased or eliminated mask mandates—D.C. loosened its mask rules two weeks ago, around the same time Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a law almost entirely outlawing mask mandates in his state and Hawaii relaxed a number of restrictions.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.