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Delta Air Lines Pleads With CDC to Slash Quarantine Period For Breakthrough COVID Cases

Delta Air Lines Pleads With CDC to Slash Quarantine Period For Breakthrough COVID Cases

Delta Air Lines has written to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Walensky pleading with her to slash the recommended quarantine period for breakthrough COVID-19 cases by half. The plea by the Atlanta-based airline is an attempt to head off a potential staffing crunch as surging Omicron infections send more and more workers into isolation.

The White House said on Tuesday that it was considering reducing the recommended quarantine period for fully vaccinated healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19. The Biden administration is concerned about a potential healthcare worker shortage due to needless quarantining just as hospitalization rates are surging.

Ed Bastian, chief executive of Delta Air Lines, however, wants the administration to go much further and reduce the quarantine period for a much wider group of essential workers including his airline’s front line employees.

The CDC currently recommends that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 self-isolates for at least 10-days – either from the date of positive test in asymptomatic cases or from the date that symptoms first appeared if it has been at least 24-hours with no fever and other symptoms are improving.

Some countries have already shortened self-isolation periods for fully vaccinated cases and others, such as the United Kingdom, are actively considering shortening the period to just seven days if coupled with a ‘negative test to release’ program.

Bastian, though, wants the CDC to cut the isolation period to a mere five days according to the letter obtained by Reuters.

“To address the potential impact of the current isolation policy safely, we propose a 5-day isolation from symptom onset for those who experience a breakthrough infection,” the letter which is co-signed by Delta’s medical advisor Dr Carlos del Rio and chief health officer Dr Henry Ting reads.

“Individuals would be able to end isolation with an appropriate testing protocol. As part of this policy change, we would be entered to partner with CDC and collect empirical data,” the letter continued, suggesting Delta is angling at getting permission from the CDC to reduce. the isolation period of its employees before the policy is formally approved nationwide.

The letter warns Walensky that Delta is facing a “significant” impact on its workforce and operation if the current 10-day isolation period is maintained. “The Omicron surge may exacerbate shortages and create significant disruption,” the letter continued.

Omicron’s potentially shorter incubation period has been suggested as one reason to reduce the isolation period because symptom onset and associated infectiousness might come and then go much quicker than previous variants.

In April, Delta endured an operational meltdown in part because of high sickness levels amongst its pilot workforce. The airline has largely avoided any other staffing woes over the summer but the next few weeks could be critical for Delta as Omicron sweeps across the United States.

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