The Omicron variant is not only threatening the bottom line of major U.S. airlines, it’s also exacerbating the labor shortage plaguing an industry already struggling to hire enough workers to serve large numbers of travelers. Ed Bastian steps up. Will other C-suiters follow?
Delta Air Lines Inc’s chief executive asked the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to shrink quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals who experience breakthrough COVID-19 infections, citing the impact on the carrier’s workforce.
CEO Ed Bastian, along with the company’s chief health officer and a medical adviser, asked in a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky seen by Reuters that the agency’s recommended quarantine period for anyone who tests positive with a breakthrough Covid-19 infection be reduced to five days from the current 10.
The letter suggested that individuals could end isolation with appropriate testing.
White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that U.S. health authorities are considering reducing the 10-day recommended quarantine period for Americans testing positive for Covid-19 as the Omicron variant tears across the country.
The CDC declined to comment.
“With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations,” Bastian wrote. “Similar to healthcare, police, fire, and public transportation workforces, the Omicron surge may exacerbate shortages and create significant disruptions.”
Bastian noted the current guidance was developed in 2020 “when the pandemic was in a different phase without effective vaccines and treatments.”
Delta said that “as part of this policy change, we would be interested to partner with CDC and collect empirical data.”
Bastian said more than 90 percent of Delta’s workforce is “fully vaccinated, and those rates are increasing daily.”
He also noted that “all airline personnel are required to mask at airports and on airplanes.” The Biden administration has mandated masks at all airports and on airplanes through March 18.
Here is the full letter:
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Leslie Adler)