United CEO: 4% of the US workforce test positive for COVID; no deaths among those vaccinated

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (Reuters) – United Airlines said Tuesday that about 4% of its U.S. employees, or about 3,000 workers, have tested positive for COVID-19, but vaccinated employees had neither died nor been recently hospitalized with the disease.

United’s revelation comes in the middle of soaring cases and continued debate on US vaccine mandates. On Friday, the The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments to challenges for President Joe Biden’s vaccine or test mandate for companies with more than 100 employees.

COVID-19 cases and quarantines affect personnel and affect flight schedules. U.S. airlines have canceled more than 30,000 flights since the end of December due to weather and COVID-19 personnel problems.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said on Tuesday that the airline “reduced our short-term schedules to ensure we have the staff and resources to take care of customers.”

United canceled 149 flights on Tuesday, or 7% of its flights, according to FlightAware.com.

Chicago-based United was the first U.S. carrier to order vaccines for its employees to facilitate travel and flight operations.

Kirby said that “the Omicron rise has put pressure on our operation … Just as an example, on a day alone in Newark, nearly a third of our workforce reported sick.”

Kirby said in a note Tuesday that “since our vaccine policy came into force, the hospitalization rate among our staff has been 100 times lower than the general population of the United States”

A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 is sitting at a gate after arriving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, USA, June 5, 2019. REUTERS / Kamil Krzaczynski

Before United’s vaccination requirements were introduced, “tragically, more than one United employee died on average * per week * of COVID,” Kirby said. “But we have now gone eight weeks in a row with zero COVID-related deaths among our vaccinated employees.”

He added: “While we have around 3,000 employees who are currently positive for COVID, zero of our vaccinated employees are currently hospitalized.”

United’s past experience and nationwide COVID data suggest that “there are approximately 8-10 United employees who are alive today due to our vaccine requirements,” Kirby said.

Last month, Kirby defended the airline’s decision on a vaccine mandate in light of Republican criticism.

“We did this for safety’s sake,” Kirby said at a hearing in the U.S. Senate. “We do not compromise on security.

Kirby said last month that around 200 employees did not comply with United’s mandate and were fired from its 67,000 employees.

Rival American Airlines (AAL.O) said on Friday that more than 96% of its employees have submitted proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a request for accommodation.

Last month, Delta Air Lines (FROM N) asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ease the quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals experiencing breakthrough COVID-19 infections, and warned that the long quarantines could “significantly affect our workforce and operations.” Other airlines complied with Delta’s request.

Last month, the CDC agreed to shorten the recommended isolation time to five days from the previous 10-day guidance.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru Editing by Bernadette Baum and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters trust principles.


Give a Comment