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COVID: Omicron Variant Found In San Francisco, Are New Travel Rules Looming?

SAN FRANCISCO INT'L AIRPORT (KPIX 5) – After a San Francisco resident became the nation's first confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, questions are being raised about the possibility of additional travel rules.

The Centers for Disease Control weighed in Tuesday, planning for changes, including stricter testing.

It's a looming hurdle for travelers, with no official announcement yet.

"It's a minefield out there for travelers," said Richard Powers, who has been traveling for work throughout the pandemic.

Changes in rules and different protocols for countries have made going to the airport a confusing maze of tests, quarantines, and mask mandates.

"Why aren't they all getting together and saying hey, let's just make one rule for travel?" asked Powers.

Vaccinated travelers entering the United States have to test no more than three days before departure. That timeline is expected to be shortened because of concerns about the Omicron variant, a change that would follow the recent travel ban on eight southern African countries.

"We needed to buy some time to be able to prepare, understand what's going on, what's the nature of this infection, what's the nature of the transmissibility," said Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States Anthony Fauci.

"We just don't have nearly enough information yet to make any conclusions about whether this variant will significantly change the course of the pandemic," Dr. Anne Liu of Stanford Health Care told KPIX 5.

It's still unclear if and when tightened testing would take effect.

"I think it's logical.  It's boring but it has to be done," said Maddalena Passi.

"I think they need to stop changing rules. I think the world needs to wake up and realize that this is here to stay," said Powers.

Not only is testing one day before departure being considered, but also testing after arrival is on the table.

Mask requirements aboard flights, inside airports, and other transportation hubs, are expected to be extended through next March.

"If they believe they need to have temporary restrictions then they should do it, but my main concern is that we don't go back to lockdowns," said Passi.

The Biden administration is expected to announce its strategy Thursday to tackle COVID this winter.

It's unclear whether tighter testing rules for travelers will be a part of the announcement.

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