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The Delta CEO says 8,000 employees have tested positive for Covid in the past 4 weeks.

A Delta Air Lines employee works at the departure level at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on August 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said about 8,000 of its 75,000 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past four weeks, the absence of which marred the company’s financial results during the busy holiday season.

Delta reported a loss for the quarter and is forecasting another loss in the first three months of the year due to the rapidly spreading omicron option, but travel is forecast to start recovering again in late February.

A series of winter storms and the removal of omicron infections from airline crews contributed to the cancellation of more than 20,000 flights to the United States between Christmas Eve and the first week of January. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Monday that 3,000 of the nearly 70,000 American employees have tested positive for Covid.

Over the past few days, the number of flight cancellations has dropped significantly. Delta’s operations have stabilized since then, with 1% of flights canceled in the past week due to Omicron, it said Thursday.

Employees who tested positive “had no major health problems,” Bastian told CNBC’s Squawk Box after publishing the quarterly results.

Late last year, Delta updated its sick leave policy for employees who test positive for Covid-19, giving them five days pay outside hospital banks and an additional two days if they test positive on the fifth day. Previously, employees had 10 days of paid leave. This came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their Covid quarantine guidelines, cutting the recommendation in half to five days.

Delta and other airlines have called on the CDC to make changes.

The largest union of flight attendants in the United States criticized Delta’s policies. Sarah Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association, tweeted last week that Delta is “advising workgroup workers to show symptoms even if a family member has tested positive.” She also said that positive workers were told to “come to work in 5 days if the temperature is below 100.9, even if the test is still positive.”

Delta has issued a termination letter against a union that is trying to organize Delta’s flight attendants.

Bastian defended this policy and said it was based on CDC leadership.


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