Employees at Delta Air Lines will have to pay a $200 per month surcharge for their company-sponsored health care plan if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the company’s top executive.
Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian wrote in an Aug. 25 memo that the extra charge—due to take effect on Nov. 1—comes in response to steep costs for staff COVID-19 hospitalization.
“The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person,” Bastian wrote. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
To date, 75 percent of Delta employees have been vaccinated, Bastian said, while warning that the spread of new viral strains means “more work remains ahead.”
In the weeks since the B.1.617.2 strain of the virus—dubbed the Delta variant—became predominant, all of the company’s employees hospitalized with COVID-19 weren’t fully vaccinated, Bastian said.
“Over the past few weeks, the fight has changed with the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant—a very aggressive form of the virus,” he wrote, adding that the company’s chief health officer “describes the variant as a ‘heat-seeking missile’ that transmits predominantly through the unvaccinated community.”
Seeking to push the staff vaccination rate “as close to 100 percent as possible,” Bastian said unvaccinated Delta staff would face additional restrictions, including indoor masking effective immediately and weekly COVID-19 testing starting Sept. 12. The restrictions will remain in place while community case rates remain elevated, he added.
Another measure meant to boost vaccine uptake among Delta staff is that as of Sept. 30, only fully vaccinated employees experiencing a breakthrough infection will be eligible for COVID-19 pay protection.
While Delta requires new employees to be vaccinated, it hasn’t matched United Airlines in imposing a universal vaccine mandate on all staff.
Other major U.S. airlines, including American and Southwest, say they are encouraging employees to get vaccinated but have stopped short of instituting a requirement.
An American Airlines spokesperson told The Epoch Times that, in addition to “strongly encouraging our team members to get vaccinated,” they are offering incentives to do so in the form of $50 and an additional day off.
Delta’s new policy announcement comes days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which was previously authorized for emergency use only.
Following the FDA’s decision on Aug. 23, President Joe Biden called on private sector entities such as businesses and nonprofits, as well as state and local authorities, to ramp up their imposition of vaccine requirements and other measures meant to boost uptake.
“If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader, who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that—require it,” Biden said at a briefing.
The lack of full FDA approval was widely reported as a factor holding some companies back from imposing vaccine mandates in the face of objections from some workers and unions.
Shortly after the FDA acted, Disney struck a deal with its unions to require all workers at its theme park in Orlando, Florida, to get vaccinated, while Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs announced that anyone entering its U.S. offices will have to be fully vaccinated, according to a memo obtained by Reuters.