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CDC To Provide Free Covid Tests At Several U.S. Airports

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The CDC is set to provide free tests for Covid-19 to travelers arriving into the several airports in the USA from international destinations. The decision comes as the US looks to control the spread of the Omicron variant, targeting international arrivals heading into the country as a way to prevent importing cases of the latest Covid-19 variant across its borders. 

Travel to and from the US is set to ramp up in the coming weeks, with travelers eying up international vacations for Christmas and New Year despite the threat of the variant, and so by distributing the tests the CDC is hoping to have more of a handle on the situation. Here's a look at the latest testing initiative by the CDC, including where it is set to take place, who is affected and a reminder of the current requirements for entering the US. 

Free Covid-19 Tests – Information For Travelers

International travel is fraught with uncertainty at present, with restrictions and requirements changing on an almost daily basis and often different for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. For the US, all travelers – regardless of their vaccination status – must ensure that they have evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than one day before travel, or recovery from the virus within the previous 90 days, along with contact information. 

But as well as having requirements for entering the country, those arriving into the US also have recommendations for what they should do on behalf of the CDC – these aren't compulsory, but strongly advised. As well as recommending that travelers monitor themselves for Covid-19 symptoms and self-isolate if they have any, the CDC recommends that arrivals get tested for Covid-19 within 3 to 5 days of arriving into the US – and that's where the new testing scheme will come into play. 

In order to help with this testing recommendation, the CDC will be distributing free at-home Covid-19 test kits for international travelers arriving into the US. This will be happening at four major airports in the US – Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport, Miami International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – with plans to expand the scheme to other airports in the near future. 

The new program, coupled with the active testing program at San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, will help the CDC to identify new and existing Covid-19 variants, and will help to identify cases of Covid-19 early before positive travelers have the opportunity to spread it to other people. 

Canadian traveler holding their passport in line at the airport, wearing a mask

Speaking about the new initiative, CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey said:

“This initiative will quickly increase access to post-arrival COVID-19 testing for international travelers arriving in the United States. 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.”

passport in airport

There is no requirement to take the test and get tested, but it can provide travelers with peace of mind after returning from abroad. The CDC has not released information of how many tests are available or where and when they will be expanding the initiative to next, but reassures travelers that they will be handing out “as many of these free test kits as possible.”  

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Sunday 19th of December 2021

According to this article, for SFO airport, you will be tested upon arrival and/or receive a kit to take home, ONLY if coming from a country of concern...


impossible to get appointment for free testing. got Binax kits before it sold out at


Saturday 18th of December 2021

If it is free, you are the product.


Sunday 5th of June 2022

@Justin, well said