The Biden administration is considering whether to impose domestic travel restrictions, including on Florida, fearful that coronavirus mutations are threatening to reverse hard-fought progress on the pandemic.
Outbreaks of the new variants — including a highly contagious one first identified in the United Kingdom, as well as others from South Africa and Brazil that scientists worry can evade existing vaccines — have lent urgency to a review of potential travel restrictions within the United States, one federal official said.
Discussions in the administration over potential travel restrictions do not target a specific state but focus on how to prevent the spread of variants that appear to be surging in a number of states, including Florida and California.
“There are active conversations about what could help mitigate spread here, but we have to follow the data and what’s going to work. We did this with South Africa, we did this with Brazil, because we got clear guidance,” one White House official said.
“But we’re having conversations about anything that would help mitigate spread,” the official said, referring to discussions about new travel restrictions that could target the spread of the U.K. mutation in Florida.
The U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7, has recently surged in Florida, where over a third of all cases in the United States have been identified.
Two federal government officials underscored that no policy announcements are imminent, and that any move to restrict travel or impose new health measures would be taken in partnership with state and local governments.
“No decisions have been made, but we certainly are having conversations across government,” the White House official said, pointing to current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging Americans to stay home and only travel for essential reasons.
“This is a war and we’re at battle with the virus. War is messy and unpredictable, and all options are on the table,” the official said.