The CDC currently requires that “…all air passengers two years of age and over entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 1 day before departure, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of recent recovery for all passengers prior to boarding. Airlines must deny boarding of passengers who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery.”
That sounds fine on paper (or computer screen) but the realities for international travelers are not so simple. Approved tests such as BinaxNOW are still not always easy to find, and there’s always the concern that would-be travelers won’t get their test results back in time.
Southwest Airlines is trying to make that process easier for its passengers by collaborating with CityHealthUC, a healthcare chain that services patients in California and Mexico.
Through that partnership, Southwest passengers have the option to buy CityHealth RapidReturn test kits, at a discount, before or after purchasing their plane tickets. Each kit contains two CDC-approved Rapid Antigen tests, as well as a virtual appointment with a CityHealth Testing Specialist who will guide travelers through the sample collection process and supervise the test.
No special app or operating system is required – passengers just need to have a Wi-Fi connection and a video-enabled device (such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop).
CityHealth Testing Specialists are available 24/7 so travelers can test whenever they need to, to be in compliance with the CDC’s requirements regarding testing time before flight. And a secure link to download the digital health certificate is sent via email, usually 2 or 3 minutes after the test is completed.
They explain more in this video (Note: the video says you have to test 72 hours in advance of your flight – they produced the video in November, before the CDC changed the requirements to 24 hours):
The tests are usually $75 for a 2-pack but are available to Southwest passengers, via a special link, for $50. That’s still high for an at-home Antigen Test; a 2-pack of BinaxNOW Antigen Tests usually costs between $20 and $25. But BinaxNOW tests are also frequently sold out.
Which brings us to another issue – as of this writing, CityHealth RapidReturn test kits are ALSO sold out.
If you go to their special link for Southwest passengers, it looks as if you can order tests:
But if you click on the blue box that says ORDER KITS, it just brings you to an empty shopping cart, with no option to actually put anything into it:
If you then click on the gray RETURN TO SHOP box, it brings you to CityHealth’s regular, non-discounted RapidReturn order page, where they say they’re temporarily out of stock.
The website doesn’t say when more test kits will be back in stock. However if you sign up to be notified of when they’re available again, they say they’ll give you 10% off (they don’t mention if the 10% off can be piggybacked onto the Southwest discount rate).
On the surface, it sounds like it would be an easier way for Southwest passengers to get the testing materials they’d need to enter the U.S., even if it’s more expensive. But unless CityHealth can keep their RapidReturn COVID-19 Test Kits in stock for Southwest passengers (or anyone else), it’s kind of a moot point.
I guess this could be added to someone’s arsenal of places to LOOK for CDC-approved tests, but that’d be about it.
More info can be found via CityHealth’s press release.
FeaturePhoto: Marco Verch / flickr
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