WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden Administration’s chief medical adviser, stated Monday on MSNBC that it would be “reasonable to consider” a requirement for full vaccination against COVID-19 for people looking to take domestic air flights as a new surge in the pandemic –driven by the new Omicron variant – disrupts travel in the United States and worldwide.
In addition to suggesting that full vaccination should be mandatory for air travel, Fauci also suggested during a second interview later that day on CNN that people should weight the possibility of avoiding mass gatherings during this weekend’s upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“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.”
Fauci also said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been weighing the possibility of shortening isolation time requirements for front-line workers; later on Monday, the CDC officially rolled out amended procedures, shortening quarantine time for essential workers exposed to COVID-19 from 10 days to just five.
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These announcements come in the face of a massive spike in COVID-19 infections across the country, driven by the new Omicron variant, which experts say is typically less severe than previous variants but far more transmissible.
Nonetheless, hospitals around the U.S. have been overwhelmed by new Omicron cases – New York alone reported 49,708 new cases on December 24 – thus prompting the CDC’s updated guidelines for frontline workers in an attempt to address shortages.
Air travel over the Christmas weekend was severely impacted by Omicron, causing widespread shortages of airline personnel and the subsequent cancellation of approximately 2,800 flights, leaving countless travelers essentially stranded until alternate flights could be booked.