Aviation industry pushes CDC to cut COVID quarantine time

Hosts distribute refreshments on a busy Delta Air Lines flight that travels from Ronald Reagan National Airport to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport on Friday, May 21, 2021.

Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

A trade group representing major US airlines has urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halve the recommended quarantine time for individuals with Covid-19 breakouts, warning that the current 10 days could lead to labor shortages and flight disruptions.

“As with the healthcare, police, fire and public transportation workforces, the sudden increase in Omicron may be
exacerbates staffing shortages and creates significant disruptions to our workforce and operations,” American Airlines CEO Nicholas Calio wrote in a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walinsky on Thursday.

The letter, which mirrors what Delta Air Lines wrote to Walensky on Tuesday, shows the airline industry’s growing concern about the impact of the guidance as Covid cases, particularly the omicron variant, increase across the country.

American Airlines represents American, United, Delta, Southwest, FedEx, UPS and others.

The CDC did not immediately comment.

Not everyone in the industry agrees with this push. Sarah Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association, the nation’s largest flight attendant association, wrote to Walinsky on Thursday arguing in favor of the current recommendations.

“Supplying flights with crew members who may still be asymptomatic, infectious, or both by shortening the necessary isolation time will only exacerbate this situation,” Nelson wrote. While the majority of flight attendants are vaccinated, she said, some may not have received booster shots.

“The flight attendants should not be expected to return to work until the test results are negative and he is not showing symptoms,” Nelson added. “We don’t know if 10 days represents this ‘magic number’, but we don’t see a justification for reducing the number of days at this time.”



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