Rapid COVID Testing Coming to Arizona Airports as Snowbirds and Holidays Arrive

Photo by Allie Barton

By Jessica Swarner

November 19, 2020

Arizona does not currently have any statewide travel restrictions.

While some US airports offer rapid COVID-19 testing to passengers, Arizona airports don’t have programs in place. But with mounting pressure to do more to stop the spread, officials are working to make voluntary testing available there. 

Gov. Doug Ducey said during a press briefing Wednesday that the state health department will work with three statewide airports to launch testing sites on the premises and increase COVID safety messaging for inbound passengers. 

The announcement comes as the number of new COVID cases in Arizona surge. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,123 new cases Thursday and 19 new deaths. The state, like most others in the country, is considered to be experiencing “uncontrolled spread” of the virus. 

RELATED: Some GOP Governors Are Now Issuing Statewide Mask Orders. But Ducey Still Says No.

Greg Roybal, spokesperson for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, told The Copper Courier the airport “has a plan in place to begin COVID-19 testing through one of its concessionaires later this month.” 

According to The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board said Thursday the testing will be operated by XpresCheck before security in Terminal 4. Travelers will pay for the tests, not the airport.

A spokesperson for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport said they were contacted by the state after Ducey’s briefing but don’t have any details for the program yet. 

Ducey also mentioned Tucson International as one of the airports to begin rapid testing, but a spokesperson said they have not heard from the state yet. 

The director of the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, a smaller airport that sees more regional flights, said it is not scheduled to receive funding for COVID testing at this time. 

Current Procedures

Currently, none of the airports discussed Wednesday are providing testing or using other measures to identify sick passengers, like checking temperatures. 

However, Tucson plans to launch on-site testing Friday with results available in 72 hours. The free tests will be available near baggage carousel five from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays through Mondays. An airport spokeswoman noted that plans for this site were in place before the governor’s briefing. 

Airlines also have their own measures in place for preventing sick passengers from boarding their planes, with some requiring passengers to complete a health acknowledgement before checking in for their flight. For example, Allegiant, which offers flights at the Gateway and Tucson airports, asks passengers to declare that they are symptom-free and that no household member has exhibited symptoms in addition to agreeing that they will wash or sanitize hands before boarding the flight, and they will wear a mask while traveling. 

Travel Trends

Travel to and from Arizona is expected to increase this winter with the arrival of seasonal residents, also known as snowbirds, people visiting their families for the holidays. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it recommends against traveling for Thanksgiving. 

Arizona does not currently have any statewide travel restrictions. However, people heading to other states may face testing and quarantine rules there. 

For example, travelers heading to California and New Mexico are supposed to quarantine for two weeks after arriving. Some states like New York and Rhode Island allow visitors to avoid or end their quarantine early if they can produce a negative COVID test.

LIVE BLOG: Tracking Coronavirus in Arizona


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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