Business

United CEO: 4% of U.S. workforce test positive for COVID; no deaths among the vaccinated

United Airlines said Tuesday that about 4% of its US employees, or about 3,000 workers, have tested positive for COVID-19, but the vaccinated employees have not died or were recently hospitalized with the disease.

United’s disclosure comes amid a spike in cases and an ongoing debate over US vaccine mandates. The US Supreme Court on Friday heard arguments to challenge President Joe Biden’s vaccine or mandate testing for companies with more than 100 employees.

COVID-19 cases and quarantines are affecting hiring and hitting flight schedules. US airlines have canceled more than 30,000 flights since late December due to weather and COVID-19 staffing issues.

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United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Tuesday that the airline has “reduced our schedules in the near term to make sure 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 US airline to impose vaccinations on its employees in order to facilitate travel and flight operations.

“The Omicron surge has put a strain on our operations…just as an example, in just one day in Newark, nearly a third of our workforce fell ill,” Kirby said.

“Since our vaccine policy went into effect, the hospitalization rate among our employees has been 100 times lower than the general population in the United States,” Kirby said in a note on Tuesday.

A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 sits at the gate after arriving at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, US, June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Kamel Krzaczynski

“Tragically, an average of more than one employee *per week* has been dying from COVID,” Kirby said before United’s vaccination requirements were set. “But we have now gone eight consecutive weeks without COVID-related deaths among our vaccinated staff.”

He added, “While we have about 3,000 employees currently infected with the COVID virus, none of our vaccinated employees are currently in the hospital.”

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

Last month, Kirby defended the airline’s decision to authorize the vaccine in the face of Republican criticism.

“We did this for safety,” Kirby said at a US Senate hearing. “We don’t compromise on safety.

Kirby said last month that about 200 employees had not complied with United’s mandate and had been fired from its 67,000 employees.

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

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

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

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(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Abhijith Ganabavaram in Bengaluru) Editing by Bernadette Baum and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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