Air Force ends rapid COVID-19 testing at Patriot Express airport locations in US
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Onsite COVID-19 testing services will be discontinued from July 15 for Patriot Express flights out of Baltimore/Washington and Seattle-Tacoma international airports, the Air Mobility Command said.
The Patriot Express, also called the Rotator or Cat B, is the Pentagon’s charter flight system used by service members and their families for official international travel. Thousands of people annually use the flights to arrive at their new overseas assignments or return to the United States.
Passengers traveling through U.S. airports must still obtain and present proof of their negative COVID-19 test, vaccination, waiver or recovery before travel, as required by their international destination, according to U.S. military guidance.
The Defense Department began rapid, onsite COVID-19 testing last fall amid a surge in cases. Since November, Air Force medical staff deployed to airports administered over 22,000 rapid tests.
“Thank you to all the Airmen who worked diligently for the last seven months conducting testing at our busy Patriot Express terminals,” AMC commander Gen. Jaqueline Van Ovost said in a statement Thursday. “These efforts decreased confusion amid rapidly changing COVID-19 travel requirements and ensured DoD families and international partners were kept safe.”
Support services, such as transportation, lodging and food, will no longer be offered by AMC to Patriot Express passengers who test positive for COVID-19, who have come in close contact with a coronavirus patient or who are suspected of being infected, the command said Thursday.
The Defense Department decided to end the airport testing based on a few factors, including widely available testing and vaccines, the statement said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still requires all passengers traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories to wear a mask. Passengers will also continue to be screened for symptoms before flying, the command said.