Florida COVID Travel Advice As State Records More Than 300 Cases of New Variant

Domestic travel in Florida remains unrestricted, as the state emerges as the epicenter of the spread of a more contagious COVID variant.

Florida has the most reported cases of B.1.1.7, also known as the U.K variant, in the country. Citing a federal official, the Miami Herald reported the surge has led Biden administration officials to consider whether domestic travel restrictions are needed in states including Florida.

While no formal plans for such heightened restrictions, including a possible ban, have been confirmed, data suggests infections of the new variant are rising.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 343 of the 932 total B.1.1.7 cases across the U.S. have been logged in Florida. The state has recorded 1,798,280 cases of COVID to date, with the disease linked to more than 28,000 resident deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The B.1.1.7 variant—which is believed to be up to 50 percent more transmissible than past forms of the virus—has so far been found in 34 states.

After Florida, 156 cases have been reported in California and 59 in New York. The remaining states have recorded under 50 cases.

The Florida Department of Health advises people to avoid travel if they are sick or have been in contact with someone with COVID in the past 14 days. Officials ask visitors to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing and avoid any crowded places.

Domestic travel

The state has not imposed a ban on domestic travel. Instead, health department states the status of the outbreak "varies by location" and people need to be prepared to be flexible with their plans. It asks travelers to check local health advice before setting off. The website VisitFlorida.com features links to information on each of Florida's 67 counties.

The Florida Department of Health explains in its fact-sheet about travel: "State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival."

It adds: "State parks, hotels and attractions are taking precautions to protect guests, but you should assess your risk and that of your family's prior to traveling... you may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others."

International travel

The rules are stricter for international travel. The U.S. government requires all people flying into the U.S. from other countries to have been tested for COVID no more than three days before the trip. Before boarding a flight into the country, travellers must show a negative test result or documentation proving they have recovered.

All passengers, regardless of citizenship status, have to sign an attestation when they arrive to pledge the information they provided to the airline was truthful.

Under the Biden administration's rules, masks are mandatory on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation for those travelling into, within, or out of the U.S., and in the country's transportation hubs, such as airports and stations.

For anyone traveling abroad from Florida, the Department of State advises checking the destination for any localized restrictions. Upon return to the U.S., the CDC advises people to get tested within five days, and avoid individuals at high-risk of infection.

For now, it remains unclear if the federal government will attempt to impose heightened domestic travel restrictions on Florida, which broadly has the authority to make its own rules about stay-at-home orders and mandatory quarantines at the state level.

According to the Herald, while residents are legally considered to have a constitutional right to travel between states, federal officials do have powers under the Public Health Service Act to restrict citizens' travel between states during a pandemic.

A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told the Herald the politician "opposes travel restrictions," while the state's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in a letter to Biden restricting movement between states would be an "authoritarian move."

A White House spokesperson told Newsweek via email: "To be clear, there have been no decisions made around additional public health measures for domestic travel safety.

"The administration is continuing to discuss recommendations across the travel space, but no specific decisions are under consideration."

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Miami International Airport COVID masks
A sign is seen as travelers prepare to check-in for their Delta Airlines flight at the Miami International Airport on February 01, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The state has emerged as hotspot for the new COVID variant from the U.K. Joe Raedle/Getty