Monday, October 3, 2022

Fauci proposes vaccination for air travel as Omicron stops flying to US

TSA employees work at an empty checkpoint amid reduced travel due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fears at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, USA, April 11, 2020 REUTERS / Jim Urquhart

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(Reuters) – On Monday, skyrocketing COVID-19 cases hampered the work of U.S. airline employees, prompting the cancellation of hundreds of flights and prompting the country’s leading infectious disease expert to invite the government to consider introducing a vaccine for domestic travel.

Monday’s travel problems trumped a somber Christmas weekend for thousands of stranded passengers waiting in airport lines and customer service phone lines to rebook flights, often days after originally scheduled.

Like other businesses, airlines have been grappling with staffing problems in recent days, as the spread of infections from the Omicron variant forced pilots, flight attendants and other workers ill at home to quarantine.

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Bad weather also affected travel. A total of 1,148 flights to, within or from the United States had been canceled by Monday afternoon, according to flight tracking website flightaware.com.

According to Reuters, the average number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has risen 55% to over 205,000 per day in the past seven days.

Anthony Fauci, the top US expert on infectious diseases, on Monday recommended that the federal government consider introducing a vaccine for domestic air travel.

“This is just another requirement that I think it prudent to consider,” Fauci said in an interview with MSNBC.

US President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters on Monday, declined to say whether he approved a vaccination requirement for domestic air travel.

He said he was willing to cut quarantine times for other Americans after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that healthcare workers could be quarantined for seven days instead of 10.

The CDC said Monday that in yet another en route accident caused by Omicron, it is investigating 68 cruise ships following reports of COVID-19 cases on board.

DELAY TIME SEVEN HOURS

Snowy weather in the Pacific Northwest also contributed to the cancellation of more than 90 flights at Seattle-Tacoma Airport on Monday.

A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines, which canceled more than 140 flights on Monday, due in part to snowy conditions in Seattle, told the passenger on Twitter that it would be hours before someone from customer service could talk on the phone, signaling which To a degree, the airline’s phone lines were filled with frustrated passengers.

“The waiting time is about 7 hours. I’m sorry, ”Alaska Airlines tweeted in response to a customer complaint.

Aisling Daniel, an 18-year-old college student, tried to return home to Anchorage, Alaska with her younger sister and two black Labrador retrievers on Monday after visiting family in Kansas City. She was stuck at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport hoping that her newly booked flight on Monday afternoon would not be canceled.

“The weather and understaffing at the airport is really a big problem here right now,” she said, the dogs wagging their tails behind her, their leashes tied to the railing.

Harley Garner, a 27-year-old creative strategist from Portland, and his brother from Seattle were vacationing with their parents in Pahrump, Nevada, and planned to fly home on Sunday night. Both brothers’ respective flights – to Portland via Alaska Airlines and to Seattle via Allegiant Airlines – were canceled Sunday afternoon. Both managed to book seats on later flights.

When their second flight was canceled, they decided to go and hit the road shortly after three in the morning on Monday. Garner’s father drove his sons to Bakersfield, California, where they planned to rent a car and then travel to Portland and Seattle, which lasted about 17 hours in total.

Garner said the most embarrassing part of the weather-related travel nightmare Alaska Airlines said, although there was no bad weather in Portland on Monday, was a last-minute cancellation notice.

“If you know that the plane will not take off from one place, and this is a connector flight, then just cancel this flight,” he said. “Do not play these games as if you don’t know there is a staff shortage due to the coronavirus.”

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