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Flight Attendants Call for CDC Relaxation in Quarantine Rules Not to Apply to Them

Flight Attendants Call for CDC Relaxation in Quarantine Rules Not to Apply to Them

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents crew at 20 airlines including United says recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce 14-day Coronavirus quarantine rules to between seven and 10 days should not apply to flight attendants after several airlines said they were considering changing their policies in light of the updated guidance.

At present, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it both “recommends and expects” U.S. airlines to adopt policies that require flight attendants and other workers to self-isolate for 14-day if they develop COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for the virus, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus.

But last week, the CDC changed its quarantine guidance, saying someone who has been in close contact with an infected person might only have to self-isolate for one week if they get a test on day seven and the result is negative. Without a test, the CDC says someone self-isolating can still break quarantine after day 10 so long as they wear a face mask, avoid crowds and maintain strict social distancing.

Explaining the rationale behind the change in guidance, the CDC said a shorter quarantine period may increase compliance rates which could actually have a more positive effect on preventing the spread of the virus.

A recent study by British researchers concluded that 14-day quarantine rules for travellers was the least effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 because many people simply break the rules as they deem them too arduous.

While SARS-CoV-2 can take as long as two weeks to incubate, the vast majority of sufferers start displaying symptoms up to five and seven days after contact with the virus.

“In the past few days, several AFA union officers have been notified by their employers that reductions of quarantine periods for Flight Attendants per new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance are being considered,” a letter from the flight attendant union to the FAA warned.

“Clearly, these guidelines should not apply to Flight Attendants working in the aircraft cabin, since it is impossible to perform work duties and at the same time socially distance 6 feet from others, avoid crowds, and immediately access onboard handwashing facilities (given delays due to lavatory queuing),” the letter continued.

Rather than reducing the length of quarantine for flight attendants, the flight attendant union wants the FAA to strengthen its current guidelines, citing “record-high caseloads and hospitalizations”.

The FAA is yet to respond.

In the past few weeks, the union representing flight attendants at American Airlines said crew sickness levels were above what had been originally forecast as COVID-19 surges in many parts of the United States. Delta Air Lines also blamed mass cancellations over the Thanksgiving weekend on rising infection levels amongst its pilot workgroup.

The Association of Flight Attendants did not name which airlines were considering changing their quarantine policies. United Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment,

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