September 25, 2022

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Contact Tracing for Air Travel: CDC’s Data System Needs Substantial Improvement

What GAO Discovered

The Centers for Condition Management and Prevention (CDC) plays a critical function in speak to tracing for air travel—the system of determining and notifying travellers who may well have appear into call with a human being contaminated with a communicable disease through a flight. Even so, various components have an effect on CDC’s capability to collect well timed, accurate, and entire air passenger information and facts to help contact tracing by area public overall health authorities. For example, airlines may perhaps not have exact and complete information about travellers to share with CDC due to the fact the get in touch with facts presented to ebook a ticket may well be for a 3rd bash, like a vacation agent, not for travellers. Additional, because no solitary, full, and responsible resource of passenger info exists, CDC typically conducts investigate to fill in gaps, extending the time it requires to share information with nearby general public health and fitness authorities.

Overview of Procedure for Collecting Air Passengers’ Speak to Details

Due to the fact the start out of the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC has taken some steps to make improvements to the high-quality of details it collects. For case in point, since November 2021, CDC has required airlines to acquire certain information—including identify, cellular phone number, e mail, and physical address—no additional than 72 hours before departure from passengers traveling on flights into the United States and to transmit the information and facts to CDC in a outlined format.

On the other hand, restrictions in how CDC collects and manages air passengers’ call information—including CDC’s use of an out-of-date details management system—hinder the agency’s capability to observe community wellness pitfalls and aid call tracing. The data management system—developed in the mid-2000s—was not intended for speedy evaluation or aggregation of public overall health information throughout person scenarios. For illustration, CDC is unable to swiftly and precisely recognize the number of passengers exposed to a unique contaminated passenger on a flight. Nor does the procedure comprise the important data fields to assess the high quality of air passenger facts CDC gets, this kind of as a industry to ascertain the timeliness of airlines’ responses to CDC’s ask for. For that reason, CDC is not positioned to proficiently review and disseminate information to inform public overall health procedures and answer to condition threats. Nor is it positioned to evaluate its efficiency in accumulating and sharing top quality passenger details.

Why GAO Did This Analyze

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the value of community wellness measures aimed at controlling the transmission of communicable conditions. Air journey can enjoy a role in immediately spreading communicable disorders throughout the world and all through communities. Offered this likely, contact tracing for air travellers is an critical evaluate for preserving community health.

GAO was asked to examine CDC’s method for amassing and running air passengers’ get hold of information to aid contact tracing. This report addresses: (1) the elements that have an impact on CDC’s capacity to collect this data, (2) current actions CDC has taken to strengthen the excellent of the info it collects, and (3) how successfully it collects and manages this info.

GAO reviewed related federal documentation, together with laws, orders, specialized assistance, and community comments, as properly as out there CDC details. GAO also interviewed officials from CDC, U.S. Customs and Border Security, and the Federal Aviation Administration, and chosen representatives from the aviation, travel, and general public health industries.