United Airlines Says Over 3000 Employees Now Have Covid, But That Vaccine Mandate Has Saved Lives

United Airlines says that 3000 of its employees currently have Covid-19. The real number is probably higher than this, since the airline probably knows relatively few asymptomatic cases and only a portion of subclinical ones. However CEO Scott Kirby believes that the airline’s vaccine mandate has already saved the lives of 8-10 of his employees, and not a single one of its employees is currently hospitalized for Covid.

The experience with Covid-19 infection at United is hardly atypical. They’re reporting less than 4% of their workforce currently infected. Even if it’s double that they still may be below the national average. One common estimate is 5% – 10% of the country currently infected but this seems quite conservative. For comparison, a simple (and therefore necessarily wrong) back of the envelope:

  • 7-day case average of 775,000
  • We may be catching only 1 in 10 cases (given asymptomatic, subclinical, and the number of people just testing at home that aren’t included)
  • Assuming average 5 day infectiousness period, that’s 38,750,000 currently infectious or 12% of the U.S. population

On a single day one-third of employees called out sick at Newark airport. But at one point perhaps over 20% of New York City residents were infected.

By the time we’re through the Ommicron wave we may see 40% of the population infected with this variant. Ultimately, though, while existing vaccines don’t do as good a job preventing infection against Omicron as against earlier variants (and the U.S. government de-prioritized variant-specific boosters, preferring to focus on boosting against the ancestral Wuhan strain), they do an amazing job at priming the immune system to fight and clear the virus.

You might think it’s misleading to say that the vaccine mandate has saved the lives of 8-10 employees, since a majority of people getting vaccinated would have done so anyway (as is the case nationally) but the comparison is to loss of life at the airline in an earlier period where many were already vaccinated. You might also think that loss of life would be lower anyway due to Omicron’s reduced virulence (for instance much shorter hospital stays) but most deaths in the last 8-10 weeks have been from Delta – so the vaccine mandate effectiveness comparison is to a period where deaths stem from the earlier variant.

The current expectation is that while prior infection with Delta doesn’t protect much more than 50% against Omicron, prior infection with Omicron should be more protective against Delta. The Omicron wave should lead to so much background immunity in the population, along with vaccination and boosters, that we exit the pandemic phase at least in the U.S. by the end of February.

Past strategies of using cloth masks probably help far less against Omicron, if you’re going to mask it should be with a higher quality mask. In some sense there’s a higher return to caution right now because of the short period in which you’d need to maintain it. And even though we do not yet have an Omicron-specific booster, the return to boosting is incredibly high and protects both against severe outcome and reduces the likelihood of infection and duration of infectiousness. Of course the pandemic has surprised us before.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Fauci promised us for the last year, that Vaccines stop the spread?

    I know he changed his tune a few weeks ago, as it was obvious this was mis-information.
    But, uhm, is anyone going to be held to account on this lie?

  2. @Don – the mRNA vaccines did stop spread pre-omicron, the vaccines were based on the ancestral wuhan strain. they still limit spread because vaccinated and boosted individuals are still less likely to become infected, and less likely to spread it once infected, and are infectious for a shorter period of time (clearing the virus faster).

  3. Don,

    What lie? Vaccines to help top the spread. It’s sciency so, read up on what vaxes do and don’t do. The great thing about these vaxes is, they were designed to protect against the orignal strains of Covid and yet, they’ve done a terrific job of preventing spread(up to Delta) and even with Omicron virtually no deaths of vaxed…

    Anecdotally- Locally, our hospital(vax mandate for all employees) tested employees last week and found 40% of employees tested positive, all asymptomatic. 30% of patients being admitted for conditions other than Covid tested positive( all asymptomatic, all vaxed). The hospital has not admitted a single vaxed patient in over a month. ALL covid ward patients currently in ICU and/or on ventilators are unvaxed.

    I’m sure you want the accurate info out there….. This info is holding true across the country tho, to be sure, Omicron is less severe overall for vaxed and unvaxed…..Just vaxed are having virtually no serious outcomes

  4. I know a lot of people who have tested positive for Covid 19.674978. None of them are sick.
    The Covid scam is getting old.

  5. You cannot end the pendanic when 30% of the population is unwilling to mask, vaccinate, or abide by reasonable public health rules, regardless of what Fauci have or have not said!

  6. Alan, Just thinking the people who work in the covid units….and prolly the people dying in them, too….Would disagree with the “scam” portion of your statement. Call it a hunch

  7. How is the concept of a forecast/prediction so challenging to grasp for some people? Do you also yell at weather reporters because they lie all the time?

    Advice: never double down on bad ideas. Doubling down looks stupid no matter how hard you try. Instead, pretend you never meant that and you’ve always been right — someone else’s at fault for misunderstanding you.

  8. United’s strategy requiring employees to be vaccinated failed plain and simple.
    United has cancelled more than 5% of their flights for weeks – far longer than any other airline except Alaska.
    We can debate the effectiveness of vaccines but ultimately businesses are interested in the least interruption to their operations and on that basis vaccine mandates failed.
    Given that multiple states including CA are requiring that covid positive staff members return to work, the entire thesis around covid management in the workplace was and is flawed.

  9. Tim Dunn

    Given that, after the first 2 months or so of Covid when we didn’t quite know what we were dealing with, virtually all of the worst states in the US for death(per 100k) are those which took the fewest precautions as part of their “strategy”.

    Plain and simple? The strategy in CA worked stupendously….except in the areas who steadfastly resisted…

    As you’ll note above, this yet another variant…. another variant caused by lack of vaccination.I won’t say just in the US because this thing is a worldwide problem and we may/may not have had the same thing happen even if those not bright enough to get vaxed….had

  10. Those breakthrough polio cases are a real bummer this year. Do the mRNA shots help? – probably. Remember what you were told initially? 15 days to stop the spread, one shot, two shots, three shots, four? Vaccinated people can’t spread the virus. Mortality rate? All wildly exaggerated.

    Cancer, influenza and heart disease deaths went to virtually zero for two years? No, they did not. But tens of thousands of dollars of imbursement rates for calling anything “covid” incented behavior to label everything covid. Government hides shot side effects and data for 75 years. That certainly builds trust.

    Everything they have told you has been incorrect or an outright lie. So impossible to trust anything the government, Fauci, CDC says.

  11. @Tim – “United’s strategy requiring employees to be vaccinated failed plain and simple“? Deaths dropped from one per week to zero. Zero vaccinated employees hospitalized. Sounds like it worked to me.

    Not every single comment has to be something that bashes an airline that’s not DL, especially when science is involved.

  12. For comparison, a simple (and therefore necessarily wrong) back of the envelope:

    7-day case average of 775,000
    We may be catching only 1 in 10 cases (given asymptomatic, subclinical, and the number of people just testing at home that aren’t included)
    Assuming average 5 day infectiousness period, that’s 38,750,000 currently infectious or 12% of the U.S. population.

    You are correct – this is wrong.

    You don’t multiply the seven day case average rate by the five day infectious period and come up with any meaningful number – for the simple reason that people find out they’ve got COVID on random days during their case and once a positive case, they’re a positive case. It’s not like the test only works on Day 1 and we get 775,000 new cases a day. Instead, we are detecting 775,000 cases a day, some time during the case, but we’re only catching one in 10 of those. Therefore, it’s more accurate to say there are 7.75 million cases currently active, more or less, which is just over 2% of the population.

  13. @CM – it’s meant to convey *order of magnitude only* not to offer a precise estimate, and the lag you identify – given national case trajectory – would suggest an underestimate

  14. operation today, the highest percentage of any mainline carrier.
    For whatever reason, they do not have the staff to operate the airline.
    Arguments about vaccines or death rates miss the point that United is having to reduce its schedule.
    The notion that a vax mandate would protect United’s operation – which is precisely what Scott Kirby said – is patently false. No other airline made the claim that their passengers would not experience the operational problems of other airlines

  15. @Gary Leff – An “order of magnitude” shouldn’t be off by an order of magnitude. You could have just admitted you screwed up the math.

  16. Tim Dunn,

    Maybe I missed it(did I?) but, I haven’t read a single thing from United saying vaxing would save their operations. Not even as an ancillary benefit. From the beginning, I’ve seen their CEO focusing on safety. His goal, to prevent deaths of more United employees.

    By that standard, it seems 0 accomplishes that. And, an added bonus of 0 hospitalized adds to the good news.

  17. But but but muh science. And Fauci is muh science! You must believe everything he and the CDC say unquestioned! It doesn’t matter if he said something different last week. We are fine with being lied to because we are the smart ones! CNN/MSNBC/Trump told us we are!

  18. Sheep bleat,

    You seem to be well-informed (in your own mind) so, I’ll ask you a question I’ve asked countless others like you and…..never once received a response. Expecting more of same here.

    If, per your sarcasm, Fauci/CDC et al can’t be trusted for the sciency info……where is it YOU get the info from?

    thanks bunches

  19. Yes. Roman you missed Scott Kirby’s pronouncement which Gary covered that United passengers would not suffer the messed up operations that impacted other airlines.
    American and Southwest which probably have lower vac rates paid premiums to their employees and ran better holiday operations

  20. Tim Dunn,

    Ok then Tim, I’ll take your word for it and stand corrected.

    With that, if 200ish employees were fired for not being vaxed then…. would those 200 be the saving of Holiday disruptions? Has United hired anybody to replace them?

  21. @Roman


    The “vaccines” are CAUSING the spread! That is already well-known…. at least to hospital staff. Where are YOU getting YOUR info from??? CNN? Our modern-day version of Pravda??? LOL!!!

  22. Harry,

    Thanks for that….input?

    Good to see someone who knows what they’re talking about….and then, there’s you.

    Like the feller above, you speak as if you’re well-informed but…. where did you get that info?
    I won’t wait as your answer is sure to be comical. Aaron Rodgers maybe?

    Vaccines aren’t know to cause the spread because, well….. how stupid is that?

    Seriously, stop day-drinking.

    …and night-drinking

  23. @Roman

    Maybe because I work in a hospital and most of my family and friends are hospital staff/administration….

    Is THAT good enough for you??? Or are you still going to keep your head in the sand like an id!ot??

    Maybe it’s YOU that should stop drinking and, you know, trying thinking for yourself for change instead of letting experienced propagandists do your thinking FOR you. *rolleyes*

  24. I had to take the “vaccine” since I’m a member of medical staff at a hospital in a medium-sized city. Pre-vax, I would go about my business as normal… no mask at the stores or other public places, never missed any large gathering of friends or family, did NOTHING different at all. THEN, post-vax/constant masking, I get covid TWICE! My experience is not unique by ANY stretch of the imagination. What does THAT tell you??

  25. @Gary Leff

    Calling me a liar is not a good look for you and clearly denial on your part. I was dumb enough to be coerced into getting poisoned, I admit that. Time of the rest (you included) to admit that as well.

  26. Harry,

    Don’t feel bad. You aren’t the only one to be “poisoned”. The CDC says reported a 40% increase of people being poisoned by bleach and other disinfectants in the days immediately after some wing-nut suggested injecting Clorox.

    Strength in numbers. You weren’t the only dummy.

  27. @Roman

    Istead of just insulting me like the loser you are, how about contributing to the conversation in a PRODUCTIVE way?

    I know that goes against your inherently bitter and hateful personality, but just give it a try…

  28. @Roman

    And if you’re STILL spreading the blatant lie (again spread by our version of Pravda) that Trump told people to inject bleach, that just bolsters my allegation that you are doing pretty much the same thing here… spreading misinformation about the dangerous and ineffective “vaccines”. I don’t much like Trump these days either, but a lie is a lie. STOP IT!

  29. Ok Har,

    Sorry for insulting you.

    I’m gonna try the “thinking for myself” thing.

    On the one hand, I hear doctors( immunologists, virologists, epidemiologists, biologists et al) from around the world(many world-renowned in their respective fields) who are working intimately with this virus, say one thing uniformly….This virus is one bad mother! … Or something like that. That the vaxes are incredibly safe and effective and even with Omicron(which we know they weren’t designed for) it protects from death MAGNIFICENTLY!

    On the other hand, I have you, Har, who works in a hospital and most of your friends and family are staff/admin( you don’t mention a one of you working in a Covid unit, lab or otherwise directly with Covid, but Pfft) and you say…. The vaccines are CAUSING the spread of the virus.

    And last- I’m taking from the reading I’ve done on these vaxes(specifically mRNA) and general knowledge I’ve absorbed from reading on vaxes in general. mRNA vaxes don’t even contain the virus so their causing the spread of the vax…..

    Ok, after doing my own thinking I’ve come to a conclusion…. What Gary said…. You’re “genuinely delusional”.

    Oh DAMMIT! Threw out the think for myself AND no insulting in one sentence.

    Sorry Har but…..You’re a loon

  30. Ok Har,

    Sorry, I’m tryin’ here, pal.

    A few more things, you having Covid TWICE tells me something…..You didn’t die, the vax worked! Congrats!

    Two surgeons, 1 my next-door neighbor, 1 my wife’s boss. Both work IN the Covid unit at our local hospital. My neighbor told me Monday, they haven’t admitted a vaxed person in over a month for Covid. ALL patients currently admitted for Covid are unvaxed.

    My wife’s boss to this day( he’s been in the unit since day 1) won’t eat out(indoors)or go in any other place indoors. Having spoken with him a number of times his general refrain is…..Anybody who plays down this virus hasn’t spent a minute inside a Covid unit. That there’s so much pain and suffering from this virus that he’s never seen before.

    Now, that’s just anecdotal stories from two men(who know what they’re talking about) but…. I also have seen/heard it echoed numerous times in TV and print….. Maybe they know something.

  31. What is delusional is the mentality of thinking that everything you say and said by the CDC, WHO, Politicians is the only truth and anything said by experts that disagree with that narrative is automatically dismissed as “delusional”.

    What is delusional is the CDC recommends NOTHING to do for yourself to combat Covid should you get it other than to go to the hospital as a last resort.

    What is delusional is to think that nobody or only a “few” have died or been injured from the vaccine when the data worldwide shows otherwise.

    What is delusional is thinking the FDA’s request for a court to grant it 55 years(make that 75 years) to release data on Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is OK. To not think for a moment, why do they want to do that??

    What is delusional is to dismiss OneAmerica, a national life insurance company based in Indianapolis, who reports 40% rise in deaths among working Americans since pre-pandemic levels and a majority of the death claims filed are not classified as COVID-19 deaths.

    What is not delusional is realizing that many people have been sucked into the narrative and lost whatever ability that had to think critically.

    What is not delusional is we have been and will continue to see more people “suddenly die” in their sleep. Kids getting Myocarditis and other serious illness. Oh, and just wait until we dish it out to the zero to 5 year olds. You can kiss their innate immunity goodbye! Lastly, someone’s favorite, here comes another winner. Paxlovid. Wonder how many this one will kill? Besides having major problems mixing with medications people take regularly. Like blood thinners.

    Good luck to all. It’s going to get a lot worse.

  32. Todd,

    There’s a lot to unwrap there but one thing is clear…

    You’re VERY far down a rabbit hole and I doubt there’s any coming back for you.

    You’re world view is that of conspiracy everywhere you look.

    The only thing I can suggest is….Stop watching, reading whatever you are and look for fresh new info….That won’t help but, it’s worth a shot

  33. 17% chance you will be hospitals if you do not get the vaccine. 20% chance you will die if you do not. .000000000000000000001% chance you will win power ball. But the idiots purchased a power ball ticket and lost. What do you think their chance is with covid 19…I think they will win that gamble for sure and some one will be pushing up daiseys in the spring.

    There is a sucker born and dies every day. Now they are kicking the bucket in herds

  34. Roman –

    The difference between you and the rest of your flock is I’m engaged with front line doctors every Thursday night on a zoom call for over a year now, engaged with my personal doctor who has treated successfully over 350 people locally with therapeutics and you get your information from CNN and CDC who have repeatedly lied to the public. Over and over and over.

    The narrative is breaking down. It’s only a matter of time now. I can wait.

  35. If I had 3 polio vaccines in 9 months and then still got polio, I’d have some questions. Just saying.

  36. @Todd

    Well said… and correct.

    In a few years, everyone (who is still alive) will FINALLY realize that everything we’ve been trying to warn the id!ots about was right on target.

    I still have a smidgen of hope that I’m wrong, but that doesn’t look likely…. we’re in for one HELL of a bumpy ride. Buckle up.

  37. Todd, you’ll prolly be waiting a long long time.

    You did miss my post above about 2 docs I know and receive info from but, no matter.

    Are those “front line doctors” the wing-nuts from America’s Front Line doctors?

    When you say you doctor successfully treated over 350 people with therapeutics, you of course mean your doc hasn’t submitted a lick of info for peer-review. Got it.

    But as 350 seems to be of importance to you, you’ll be happy to know that over 200mil people just in the US have been treated with vaxes and 99.99%+ of those who got Covid recovered….vs less than 97% of those who weren’t vaxed.

    I checked and my numbers are a LOT higher than 350 so….welcome aboard!

  38. Australia now ADMITS covid vaccines are harming people, offers up to $600,000 in compensation for the seriously injured
    Thursday, January 06, 2022 by: Ethan Huff

    So many Aussies are coming down with serious illnesses after getting “vaccinated” for the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19) that the Australian government is rolling out a new compensation scheme to try to shut them up.

    Local media out of Sydney reported on the new program, which offers varying rates of compensation depending on the severity of the injury and how much a vaccine-injured person is having to pay out of pocket for medical expenses. (Related: Australia is also throwing some people in concentration camps for “ongoing operations”.)

    “Doctors say the benefits far outweigh the risks, but as the vaccine rollout now ramps up through the booster phase, there are a rare few who suffer serious side effects,” a 7 News reporter explained.

    “Now the federal government is offering compensation for anyone who becomes seriously ill after having their covid shot.”

    A man named Matty John was interviewed for the segment as he suffered what felt like a heart attack just two days after getting jabbed with a Pfizer syringe. He says he felt a sharp pain in his chest that was later diagnosed as pericarditis.

    John is one of at least 79,000 Aussies who have reported becoming seriously injured by the injections. Here is how they can qualify for compensation:

    • For injuries that are confirmed just with evidence from a doctor, no more than $20,000 in compensation will be provided.

    • For injuries assessed and confirmed by a team of legal experts,
    over $20,000 will be compensated.

    • In the worst of cases for the most serious injuries, a maximum payout of $644,640 will be compensated.

    “If you do suffer pericarditis, it can result in you paying out of pocket and you might need to see a cardiologist, you might need procedures, so it is definitely appropriate that there is a vaccination scheme there to compensate people,” says Daniel Opare, a medical law expert.
    There’s just one catch: Vaccine-injured people must spend at least one night in the hospital in order to qualify

    It almost sounds too good to be true, seeing as how there is currently nothing comparable in the United States.
    There is a catch, though. In order for a vaccine-injured Aussie to qualify for any compensation, he or she must have spent at least one night in the hospital. For John, this was not the case.
    While he did spend two days in the hospital for his pericarditis, he did not stay overnight for either one of his visits. Consequently, he now has to pay out of pocket for his Fauci Flu shot injuries.
    This caveat is making it difficult for many others to qualify as well since hospitals are more likely now to send patients home and prevent them from staying overnight so that they automatically will not qualify for compensation.

    “This is not enough … not even close!” wrote one upset person on Twitter about the scheme.
    “And how many children 5-11?” asked another. “2022 will tell.”
    “So how does this work?” asked someone else, confused about the program. “They’re giving you $600k for taking the shot, which they forced you to take? And are still forcing people to take it? I don’t get it.”

    “It’s your money,” responded another, explaining that taxpayers and not Big Pharma are the ones bankrolling all this hush money. “Remember, giving out large sums of money will serve to destroy Australia’s economy. You need to get it back from Pfizer.”

  39. HARRY!

    I know you don’t like the insult thing but…. I did ask you about where you get your info earlier and you never got back to me.

    There are a lot of us here wanting to know where to get the “real” info. Your failure to get back to me has some people( not me pal) wondering if you’re actually just a wing-nut with no “real” info, just stuff you get from wing-nut news or something.

    I’m still here for you, buddy. Get back to me.

  40. Todd,

    Japan’s 7 day average for Covid, 5235.

    Myocarditis is a noted possible side effect, in the US as well. Incredibly rare …. I think it was 25 cases or so put of 3million or so vaxes. Myo IS also a side effect of….Covid. Occuring 5x more often than with the vax…so there’s that.

  41. My god the comments on this website from antivax loons are crazy. I hope none of you or anyone you love have to deal with the consequences of your stubborn ignorance. Why Gary lets you pollute his website is a mystery to me.

  42. Roman – it is not incredibly rare unless you only listen to the CDC.

    Good luck. I don’t have the time or desire to back and forth with your mentality.

  43. Believe it or not, there are actually statistics kept on this type of thing. The Myo issue was discovered thru the VAERS system. A valuable tool for discovering just such issues.

    I’m quite certain your info/evidence will be along the lines of…everybody knows it or the truth is being kept from us…. What you won’t have is…. anything of substance to back you up.

    That’s how conspiracy theories work…..

  44. Listen to a 4 minute video. It just makes sense. But for the non believers guess we have to wait for the deaths.

    voice for science and solidarity dot org/videos-and-interviews/why-is-covid-19-vaccination-of-children-an-unforgivable-sin

  45. Thanks Alex Berenson for the following….

    Dec. 9, 2021 – European drugs regulator say data supports vaccine boosters after three months.

    Jan 11, 2022 – European Union regulators warned that frequent Covid-19 booster shots could adversely affect the immune system.

    That would scare the hell out of me if I had boosters! What changed? What data have they seen since Dec 9th?? USA and Europe who received mRNA boosters deserve to know the truth.

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