Soaring COVID-19 cases across Los Angeles County fuelled by the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron variant are starting to ground airline and airport workers at LAX according to public health officials.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says at least 400 workers from the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) have been infected in the latest cluster, along with Southwest and American Airlines employees.
So far, however, unlike previous outbreaks, the current cluster has not had any noticeable impact on airport operations and the TSA has not reported any delays in passengers clearing security checkpoints.
The outbreak, affecting around 220 TSA agents to date, is potentially the largest single cluster being investigated by health officials across the entire county. Los Angeles has recorded a sharp spike in infections in recent days with a positivity rate of more than 15 percent on some days.
The situation has reached a point where Los Angeles County is preparing to issue yet another indoor masking mandate in an attempt to curb the spread, although no official announcement has been made.
Masking mandates don’t appear to have significantly slowed the spread at LAX where face mask rules have remained in place for some time. Masks are also still required on all forms of public transport, within transit hubs and in healthcare settings.
Travelers passing through LAX aren’t, though, routinely challenged if they choose not to wear a mask.
Previous outbreaks have quickly resulted in disruption across the aviation industry but the BA.5 surge has so far had little effect on daily operations. There could be many reasons why airlines are fairing better this time around with more relaxed CDC quarantine guidance meaning that workers don’t have to spend so much time off work being a big help to business.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.