When the head of Delta Airlines sent the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a letter asking that the agency limit its recommended quarantine time for COVID-19 patients from 10 to 5 days, the airline admitted losing too many employees.
A week later, and stunningly, the CDC acquiesced.
The move raised eyebrows, and with new COVID-19 records set almost daily, many questioned the government’s motives during the pandemic.
In a nationally televised interview, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained the reason for the new isolation guidelines for asymptomatic individuals.
“It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate,” Dr. Walensky said.
That statement, which suggested that the CDC’s change had more to do with dollars and cents than health and safety, drew rebuke from accomplished and noted physicians like Dr. James Hildreth, the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.
“With all respect, guidance should be what will keep people alive and well,” said Dr. Hildreth, who served on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration board that examined and approved vaccines to fight the coronavirus.
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist, health economist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, also chastised the CDC.
“I suspect Delta Airlines have way more influence than they should because they are based in Atlanta where the CDC has its headquarters,” Dr. Feigl-Ding wrote in a tweet. “Delta shouldn’t be able to lobby the CDC like this.”
On December 21, 2021, Delta Airlines addressed a letter to Dr. Walensky.
The airlines’ medical advisor, Dr. Carlos del Rio, wrote the CDC’s guidance “was developed in 2020 when the pandemic was in a different phase without effective vaccines and treatments.”
Dr. del Rio claimed that over 90 percent of Delta’s workforce were fully vaccinated. He said Delta employees represent “an essential workforce to enable Americans who need to travel domestically and internationally.”
“With the rapid spread of the omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations,” Dr. del Rio asserted.
Less than a week later, and despite alarmingly high cases of COVID-19 due to the delta and omicron variants, the CDC complied.
“I believe that the CDC is making very irresponsible decisions regarding the health and safety of Americans, disabled and non-disabled alike, but especially for disabled people,” insisted Robert Kingett, an author and essayist who is blind.
“The CDC is only looking out for businesses and corporate industries that forget that people dying as a result of its actions would stop business faster than any quarantine limitations ever will,” Kingett stated.
Engineer Margaret Gel called the CDC’s action deplorable.
“It goes against the science and it’s all because the head of Delta Airlines requested it. It’s going to result in many, many more people getting sick and I’m honestly appalled that the CDC has sunk to this level, where they’re willing to put people in danger just because a CEO requests it,” Gel remarked.
Still, others said there’s a silver lining in omicron becoming the dominant variant.
That’s because the latest study by South African scientists revealed that people who had recovered from an infection with the variant might be able to fend off later infections.
“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” Dr. Walensky said in a statement.
“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission and take a test before you gather,” Dr. Walensky said.