JetBlue joins Delta, asks CDC to reduce omicron isolation guidelines

Dec 23, 2021

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JetBlue on Wednesday became the second airline to ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the amount of time that vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate.

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In a letter to the CDC, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes argued that the current guidance —which require 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ten days following the onset of symptoms, or, in the case of asymptomatic cases, the first positive test result — is out of date and based on the limited information that the CDC had earlier in the pandemic.

“Today, we have a much better understanding of this disease and have groundbreaking vaccines and treatment options available to fight this virus,” Hayes wrote, citing evidence in recent weeks suggesting that vaccinated people who become infected by the virus, including the omicron variant, are likely contagious for shorter periods of time.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, along with the airline’s chief health officer Dr. Harry Ting and medical advisor Dr. Carlos del Rio, wrote a similar letter to the CDC on Tuesday.

“Today, the vast majority of JetBlue’s Crewmembers are vaccinated and like so many others are being relied upon by the American public for providing the essential service of travel,” Hayes wrote. “Healthcare workers, first responders, airline professionals and many other essential employees across the economy who are fully vaccinated may no longer need a full 10-day isolation.”

Unlike Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Hayes stopped short of asking the CDC to adopt a specific new guideline, simply asking that the current rules be reconsidered.

The Delta letter asked the CDC to adopt a five-day isolation period.

Both Hayes and Bastian cited the possibility of operational disruptions caused by the isolation guidelines, arguing that non-infectious employees could remain sidelined for an unnecessary period of time thanks to the spread of the omicron variant, which the CDC this week said makes up nearly three-quarters of current COVID-19 cases nationwide.

“We can safely mitigate disruption to our essential services and further economic harm during this Omicron wave by reducing the isolation period, from the start of symptoms, for those who are fully vaccinated and suffering from a breakthrough infection,” Hayes wrote. “JetBlue fully supports calls for CDC to reconsider the current guidance.”

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN this week that the CDC was considering reducing the isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals. Some evidence suggests that the omicron variant has a shorter incubation period and infectious period among fully vaccinated people, and causes more mild disease.

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.

Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

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