Ahead of the holiday season, the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) has announced it will begin offering COVID-19 tests for travelers and staff next week at O'Hare and Midway Airports.
The CDA testing program, a partnership with Doctors Test Centers and Simple Laboratories, will offer both rapid antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests; results will be available within 20 minutes and 72 hours, respectively. The move to offer testing follows similar efforts at airports across the country, from JFK in New York to LAX in Los Angeles.
"The Chicago Department of Aviation is proud to present the most comprehensive COVID-19 testing program of any airport system in the nation," CDA Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said in a statement.
This testing program is separate from the existing permanent drive-up testing center in a Midway Airport parking lot, which was opened by the city in November shortly before Thanksgiving and does not require proof of travel. In order to qualify for testing via the CDA program, recipients will need to demonstrate proof of flying within 72 hours before their flight or up to five days after (airport employees, on the other hand, must demonstrate proof of employment). The testing site at O'Hare provides pre-security walk-up testing as well as a parking lot drive-up site, while Midway will host a walk-up site within the terminal. Test costs will be capped at $150 and insurance will be accepted, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
It's important to note that non-essential holiday travel is still discouraged by state and city health officials, though precautionary measures like pre-departure testing and mask usage may offset some of the risk of in-person gatherings. As CDA points out in its press release, many international destinations—as well as a handful of domestic locations, such as Hawaii—require proof of a negative pre-departure test before arrival. Looking for other ways to get a test before traveling? American Airlines launched a program in early December that allows passengers to purchase an at-home testing kit before flying to destinations with travel restrictions.
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