Delta warns of possible operational disruption caused by omicron quarantine rules, asks CDC to change guidelines

Dec 21, 2021

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Delta Air Lines warned Tuesday of possible staffing shortages and “significant” operational disruptions due to the omicron variant, and more specifically, due to CDC guidelines that the airline characterized as unnecessary and burdensome.

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In a letter to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Delta CEO Ed Bastian asked the CDC to shorten the time period for which those who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate, at least in the case of vaccinated people. Bastian, along with the airline’s chief health officer Dr. Harry Ting and medical advisor Dr. Carlos del Rio, asked the CDC to consider only requiring a five-day isolation period for vaccinated individuals.

The full letter can be viewed at the bottom of this story.

The current guideline requires all vaccinated and unvaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate for ten days following the onset of symptoms, or, in the case of asymptomatic cases, the first positive test result.

“With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation window for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations,” the letter said. “Similar to healthcare, police, fire, and public transportation workforces, the Omicron surge may exacerbate shortages and create significant disruptions.”

“Further, all airline personal are required to mask at airports and on airplanes.”

The airline cited data suggesting that the omicron variant, which the CDC this week said makes up 73% of COVID-19 cases nationwide, has a shorter incubation period and infectious period among fully vaccinated people.

Related: As omicron spreads, here’s what you need to know about traveling during the holidays

“Individuals would be able to end isolation with an appropriate testing protocol,” the letter said. “As part of this policy change, we would be interested to partner with CDC and collect empirical data.”

The letter did not cite specific data or studies.

Cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed across the U.S. in recent weeks with both the delta and omicron variants spreading as we head into winter. Although the delta variant made up 99.5% of cases as recently as the end of November, the omicron variant has surged in recent weeks and now makes up 73% of U.S. cases, the CDC said Monday.

Delta letter to CDC by David Slotnick on Scribd

Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy. 

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