Fauci suggests COVID vaccination rule for domestic air travel

December 27, 2021, 6:40 PM UTC

President Joe Biden’s medical adviser said a domestic travel vaccination rule should be considered as the Omicron variant fuels record COVID-19 case loads in some states and holiday travel continues to be disrupted around the U.S. 

Anthony Fauci said on MSNBC on Monday that it would be “reasonable to consider” a requirement to be vaccinated for coronavirus before getting on a domestic flight. Later, in an interview on CNN, he said people should consider avoiding larger New Year’s Eve parties. 

“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”

Biden said on Monday that governors had asked Fauci about new requirements for air travel during a weekly conference call. The lobbying group for major U.S. air carriers, Airlines for America, said the administration had indicated that such a mandate wasn’t coming in the near term.

“We have been informed by the administration that there is no imminent policy proposal regarding a domestic travel requirement and echo concerns expressed by the administration about the implementation and enforcement of such a policy,” the group said in a statement.

Fauci also reiterated that officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are seriously discussing whether its feasible to shorten isolation and quarantine time for essential workers. 

Scrapped flights

A surge in cases prompted U.S. airlines to scrap about 2,800 flights over the holiday weekend because of personnel shortages, and has disrupted plans for some of the traditional year-end college football games. 

U.S. travel stocks retreated on Monday despite gains in the wider market, with United Airlines Holdings Inc. down 0.9% at 12:57 p.m. in New York. Delta Air Lines Inc. lost 0.8% and American Airlines Group Inc. fell 0.6%. Among cruise-ship operators, Carnival Corp. declined 1.5%, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. retreated 2.1% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. fell 2.9%.

While some studies have suggested the Omicron variant is less severe, particularly for vaccinated people, rising case loads have prompted concerns hospitals could still be overwhelmed with patients, a situation now being seen in pockets of the U.S. 

Biden is expected to discuss the situation in U.S. states on Monday with the National Governors Association. His remarks follow a spike in COVID-19 infections to record levels in several states, including New York, which reported 49,708 new cases on Dec. 24. 

—With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein and Justin Sink.

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