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

United̵[ads1]7;s revelation comes amid soaring cases and ongoing debate over US vaccine mandates. On Friday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments to challenge President Joe Biden’s vaccine or test mandate for companies with more than 100 employees.

COVID-19 cases and quarantines affect manning and hit flight times. US airlines have canceled more than 30,000 flights since the end of December due to weather and COVID-19 manning issues.

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

United canceled 149 flights on Tuesday, or 7% of flights, according to

Chicago-based United was the first US airline to mandate vaccines for its employees to facilitate travel and flight operations.

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

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

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

Before United’s vaccination requirements were put in place, “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: “Although we have around 3,000 employees who are currently positive for COVID, zero of our vaccinated employees are hospitalized.”

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

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

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

Kirby said last month that around 200 employees did not follow United’s mandate and were fired by their 67,000 employees.

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

Last month, Delta Air Lines’ (DAL.N) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for softening quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals experiencing groundbreaking COVID-19 infections, warning that long quarantines could “affect our workforce and operations.” considerable.” Other airlines followed Delta’s request.

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

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

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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