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Pilots at an airport

Pilots talk after exiting a Delta Airlines flight at the Ronald Reagan National Airport on July 22, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

Union Head Rejects CDC Covid Guidelines That Put 'Corporate Interests' Over Pilot Safety

"No pilot should feel pressured to fly before they are medically fit to do so. Period."

Julia Conley

The head of North America's largest pilots union said Thursday that its members would "follow the science" regarding Covid-19 safety precautions as opposed to new guidance released by the CDC earlier this week which critics say put the needs of corporate profits over worker safety.

"We've followed the science throughout the pandemic and will not allow corporate interests to replace the good judgment pilots show daily in making decisions about whether they are healthy to fly," said Capt. Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots at 38 airlines in the U.S. and Canada.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been under fire in recent days after announcing that instead of waiting 10 days as previously recommended, people who test positive for Covid-19 should wait just five days before returning to work and other activities while wearing a face mask. The guidance does not specify that people should take a Covid-19 test before leaving isolation, sparking shock amongst public health experts.

"We've followed the science throughout the pandemic and will not allow corporate interests to replace the good judgment pilots show daily."

Labor advocates have also expressed anger over the guidelines, which were released after the airline industry lobbied federal officials with the complaint that the 10-day protocol would "exacerbate personnel shortages and create significant disruptions to our workforce and operations" as the Omicron variant spreads across the country.

Delta Air Lines promptly appeared to take advantage of the CDC's new guidelines this week, releasing a new sick leave policy Tuesday that provides five days of paid leave for workers who have Covid-19 and encouraging—but not requiring—a negative test to return to work. The new policy does not specify whether employees should continue staying home if they still have symptoms.

"That support for workers who are still sick is not there and the thrust of this is pushing people to come to work in the middle of this busy holiday travel season," Nelson told CNBC Thursday.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky defended the new guidance this week, saying the five-day isolation period would be more tolerable for people and that if a person isolates for five days right after testing positive, they will be staying away from others when they are "maximally infectious."

"We shortened the time to encourage people to do the right thing," Walensky told CBS Wednesday.

As Common Dreams reported Sunday, National Nurses United (NNU) has also condemned the CDC for weakening public health precautions amid warnings that Omicron will continue spreading rapidly across the U.S. in the coming weeks.

NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo asked whether the agency aims to encourage Americans to do "the right thing for our health and safety? Or the right thing for our bosses' wallets?"

Also on Thursday, Michigan health officials urged residents to continue following the state's guidance to isolate for 10 days if they test positive, whether they are symptomatic or not, and for 14 days if they are unvaccinated and have an exposure.

"Good choice," tweeted Detroit-based surgeon and scientist Dr. David Gorski, addressing the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "The CDC's new guidelines are dubious at best."

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