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Good News for Travel

A little over a week ago I read about a new Covid-19 test that can provide good results in as little as 15 minutes. It is also less expensive because it does not require being sent to a lab, although it does require someone with training to administer (it is not expected that people can test themselves). Even better, the cost of the test is estimated to be around $5.

That by itself is good news. I had a test done two months ago, and it took 15 days to get a result back, and I had to self-quarantine that whole time. But there is an even bigger reason why this is good news.

United Airlines already announced that they will offer this test on flights from San Francisco to Hawaii. The benefit will be that the State of Hawaii will let passengers skip the two-week quarantine when they arrive, if they pass the test. The downside is that if the test says you have Covid-19, you won’t be allowed to fly at all. And if this works well on their flights to Hawaii, they plan to offer a similar deal to international destinations.

But it didn’t surprise me that United really screwed up everything else about this test. First, they will be charging $250 to give you a test that costs $5 or so. Even worse, taking the test will not be mandatory, so every flight will contain both people who have been tested (and passed) and people who have not been tested at all.

If they want the public to feel safe flying, they need to make this test mandatory at least on select flights. After all, even Dr. Anthony Fauci said he would not fly because it is too dangerous. If airlines want to jumpstart travel, they need to make flying safe. If they want other countries to allow planes from America to land on their soil, they need evidence that planes don’t have any people with Covid-19 on them.

It would be even better if it is airports that do the testing instead of airlines so you don’t get sick standing in line for security or jostling for your luggage.

And this doesn’t apply just to flying. Canada has closed its land borders to Americans, which has severely damaged their tourism industry. But they could set things up so that you could get tested at the border and allowed to enter if you pass.

Or even flee to Canada if Trump wins steals a second term.

UPDATE: Readers seem to be concerned about the accuracy of this test. Compared to the PCR test (considered the “gold standard”), the new test is 97.1% accurate for positive results (the diagnosis is that you do have Covid-19) and 98.5% accurate for negative results (you’re clean). Remember that no test is completely accurate, and that any reasonably accurate test, if administered widely, will significantly limit the spread of the disease, which is the main goal. So this is considered to be a very good test, and the fact that you get your results back in minutes will more than make up for the slightly lower accuracy. And of course if you get a positive result, it is common practice to then administer the PCR test for verification.



  1. Wildwood wrote:

    This is only good if it’s accurate. Some of the tests are only about 50% accurate if the test result is negative. Our son tested positive so we went through the drive through at Walgreens. We didn’t get the result for a couple of days and ours were negative. But given the inaccuracy, were we really? Our son had either no symptoms or they were so mild as to be power of suggestion. He flies all the time. Came back from Dallas to St. Louis last night and for the first time in many months, his trip consisted of two flights that were both full. So a test, mandatory, inexpensive, and quick could surely be a life saver for the airline industry. If it’s fairly accurate.

    Sunday, September 27, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  2. Dan wrote:

    The VA has been using it for quite some time

    Monday, September 28, 2020 at 1:39 am | Permalink