In August 2021, United Airlines introduced a vaccine mandate for all employees to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, CEO Scott Kirby has shared a horrifying fact about the pre-mandate era: At least one United employee, on average, was dying per week.
Kirby shared this stat in a note to employees that explained why United will be reducing its flight load in the near future. Here’s an excerpt of that note, as shared by Live and Let’s Fly (emphasis added):
[O]ur vaccine requirement is working – and saving lives. While we have about 3,000 employees who are currently positive for COVID, zero of our vaccinated employees are currently hospitalized.
Since our vaccine policy went into effect, the hospitalization rate among our employees has been 100x lower than the general population in the U.S. Prior to our vaccine requirement, tragically, more than one United employee on average *per week* was dying from COVID.
But we’ve now gone eight straight weeks with zero COVID-related deaths among our vaccinated employees – based on United’s prior experience and the nationwide data related to COVID fatalities among the unvaccinated, that means there are approximately 8-10 United employees who are alive today because of our vaccine requirement.
There’s a lot to unpack there, but let’s start with the big one: Before vaccine mandates, on average, at least one United employee was dying of COVID per week. While that may not be a huge portion of employees for a company that already hires tens of thousands of workers, those still aren’t great stats. Especially considering the fact that airlines work very closely with the public at large.
That said, a lot of United employees are still sick with COVID. I almost wish Kirby had shared more detailed data here so we could see how many of those folks are part of flight crews and how many work away from the public.
It’s important to note that, while we don’t know a lot about the Omicron variant at this point, it does appear to be less virulent and less deadly than previous variants, which could have also contributed to a lower death count. That said, the most severe symptoms — including deaths and hospitalizations — tend to come in unvaccinated individuals, those with compromised immune systems, or those with co-morbidities