Delta launches effort to improve contact tracing

Delta Air Lines said Thursday it will work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an updated system that could enable health officials to more quickly warn passengers if they have been exposed to the coronavirus on a flight.

Starting Dec. 15, travelers coming to the United States on international flights will be asked to provide five key pieces of information, including an email address and two phone numbers. Travelers won’t be required to provide the information, but airline and health officials hope they will.

Delta’s announcement comes after months of back-and-forth between federal health officials and airlines over who should be responsible for collecting passenger information the Department of Health and Human Services says is critical for improving the effectiveness of contact-tracing programs. It could prompt other carriers to put similar programs in place.

“Contact tracing is a fundamental component of the nation’s public health response strategy for controlling the spread of communicable diseases of public health concern,” said Caitlin Shockey, a CDC spokeswoman. “The collection of contact information from air travelers by airlines, like Delta, will greatly improve the timeliness and completeness of information for covid-19 public health follow-up and contact tracing, as needed.”

Delta’s announcement also underscores how the lack of federal mandates has forced airlines and airports to find their own ways to address concerns about the safety of flying during a pandemic. Airlines have made masks mandatory on flights and have banned hundreds of passengers who refuse to wear them. Airlines and airports also have put programs in place to test travelers for the coronavirus.

Delta spokeswoman Lisa Hanna said that rather than wait for government and the airline industry to come to an agreement, the company decided to create its own program.

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Source: News Times