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Sen. Feinstein introduces bill to restrict domestic air travel in time for holidays

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Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has just introduced the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act that will require all passengers on domestic flights to provide proof of full vaccination, a negative COVID test, or verification of recovery from the virus.

“We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge. We simply cannot allow that to happen again,” Feinstein stated.

“Ensuring that air travelers protect themselves and their destination communities from this disease is critical to prevent the next surge, particularly if we confront new, more virulent variants of COVID-19. This bill complements similar travel requirements already in place for all air passengers – including Americans – who fly to the United States from foreign countries. This includes flights from foreign countries with lower COVID-19 rates than many U.S. states,” she asserted.

“It only makes sense that we also ensure the millions of airline passengers that crisscross our country aren’t contributing to further transmission, especially as young children remain ineligible to be vaccinated,” Feinstein announced.

If the bill is passed, the Secretary of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration will work to develop national COVID vaccination standards and procedures for domestic air travel, i.e. vaccine passports.

The bill goes even further in mandating that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices provide recommendations for vaccine use in healthcare settings and by healthcare personnel.

Passengers who travel to the United States from a foreign country are already required by the CDC to provide proof of a negative COVID test or verification of recovery from the virus. The Biden administration has stated that it will work with airlines to implement additional protocols to prevent the spread of the disease on international flights. That indicates that domestic air travel will be impacted by even more COVID mandates.

Feinstein’s bill is being supported by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Public Health Association.

“Vaccination is a critical strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccination requirements in multiple settings are an important mechanism to boost vaccination rates, prevent infections and hospitalizations and save lives. The Infectious Diseases Society of America supports Senator Feinstein’s legislation to require vaccination for domestic air travel as part of our nation’s broader COVID-19 vaccination strategy,” Dr. Barbara D. Alexander, who is the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and professor of medicine and pathology at Duke University School of Medicine, stated.

Meanwhile, unions representing American and Southwest airlines pilots are asking for an exemption or an alternative to Biden’s federal mandate requiring companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated.

Almost 30 percent of American Airlines pilots are reportedly not vaccinated according to ABC News.

“Some of APA’s members are unable to undergo vaccination for documented medical reasons, while others are reluctant to get vaccinated based upon concerns about the potential for career-ending side effects,” union president, Captain Eric Ferguson said in a letter to the Department of Transportation, the White House, and Congress.

(Video Credit: WFAA)

“About another 30%, for whatever reason at this point, have not taken the vaccine,” Ferguson remarked. “And I suspect that 10 or 15% or 30% may never take it, no matter what.”

The union that represents Southwest’s pilots said in a statement: “Our pilots have shouldered an elevated risk of illness from the start of the pandemic, including well before the vaccines became available. And we are hopeful that our contributions are recognized and accounted for as we seek approval of an alternate means of compliance and an operationally feasible implementation period.”

Both unions say the 60-day-timeline for the requirement to get vaccinated could impact holiday travel this year if pilots who choose not to get vaccinated are fired.

“We are also concerned that the Executive Order’s anticipated 60-day implementation period for mandatory vaccinations could result in labor shortages and create serious operational problems for American Airlines and its peers. Airlines generate a substantial portion of their annual revenue during the holiday period, with a great many travelers depending on us to get them to their destinations. Our nation’s airlines, and the traveling public, cannot afford significant service disruptions due to labor shortages,” Ferguson noted.

“In a situation where we became instantly short say 10 or 15%, on manning, the viability of this company would be at risk,” Ferguson posited.

Delta Air Lines will reportedly charge unvaccinated employees $200 more per month for health insurance.

United Airlines has also ordered its 67,000 US employees to provide proof of vaccination.  eTurbo News is reporting that 593 of those workers are about to be fired after failing to comply with the airlines’ COVID-19 vaccination policy.

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