Air Safety Organization Updates

April 22 Conference Call Notes

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks

  • On Friday, April 3, ICAO published a memo with respect to operational measures to ensure safe operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to facilitate safe operations during these difficult times, it is encouraging states to be flexible in their approaches while at the same time adhering to their obligations under the Convention on International Civil Aviation. ICAO has launched a COVID-19 Operational Safety Measures public website that will provide measures to ensure safe operations during this period and will be maintained by ICAO through March 31, 2021, unless circumstances otherwise dictate. This is found under Flight Crew Resources on our website. 
  • On Wednesday, April 8, ALPA national leaders and master chairmen held a teleconference with the FAA administrator to advocate for oversight and regulatory requirements for air carriers based on carrier feedback. 
  • On Wednesday, April 8, CDC issued new guidelines for critical infrastructure workers
    • Key points:
      • Employees should not share headsets or other objects that are near the mouth or nose. 
      • Employers should increase the frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces. 
      • Employees and employers should consider pilot testing the use of face masks to ensure they do not interfere with work assignments. 
      • Employers should work to increase air exchanges in locations and employees should physically distance when they take breaks together and should not share food or utensils. 
      • CDC also gives guidance to a potential exposure (being in household contact or having close contact within 6’ of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19). 
      • CDC recommends at this time the following timeframe for having contact with an individual includes the period of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic. 
      • CDC also gives guidance for critical infrastructure workers to implement the following: pre-screening, regular monitoring, and wearing a face mask in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers may either issue facemasks or approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings. 
    • Based on the recent CDC guidance, some carriers have started implementing pre-screening measures that are done by a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. 
    • FAQs from pilots include “Do we need to report this on our MedExpress?” and, “If someone ‘fails’ the screening (e.g., fever, screening questions indicating COVID-19) would this be a reportable event to the FAA?” The answers from the ALPA Aeromedical Office: Standardized screening by a HCW as part of normal airline operations would not constitute a reportable visit to a health care professional (HCP) on question 19 on the FAA medical application. Likewise, self-quarantine for failing a screening test is not a reportable event. If someone tests positive for COVID-19 and seeks treatment from a HCP, that would be a reportable event for the next FAA physical. 
  • On Wednesday, April 8, ALPA rolled out the Data Action ReporT (DART) at a national level. For properties that do not have a mechanism in place to support the overwhelming amount of questions that are submitted by pilots related to COVID-19, DART is now available. The four categories are COVID-19 Health, COVID-19 Training, COVID-19 Furlough, and COVID-19 Jumpseat. If a pilot group already has fully implemented DART, then the pilot may be able to submit other reports outside of COVID-19 questions. MECs that have their own reporting systems (e.g., United and JetBlue’s PDR system) ask their pilots to use those reporting systems instead of national DART.
  • On Thursday, April 9, two new resources were posted on the main ALPA coronavirus page, as well as to the Health and Research section:
    • A comprehensive video produced by the Yale Medical School that explains COVID-19 from point A to Z. 
    • A tool that shows the estimates of the peak of the pandemic (estimated to have been April 11) and what we can all do to flatten the curve. 
  • During this COVID-19 crisis, we have been working together to include different committees as you may be doing at your respective properties. The Security Committee presented a brief on extremist movements that we wanted to bring to your attention. On Thursday, April 9, ISD’s Digital Research Unit provided its second report that provides a briefing focused on groups and individuals that are mobilizing around COVID-19 in the United States. Major points: Groups and individuals are opportunistically using the ongoing pandemic to advance their movements and ideologies, COVID-19 is being used to advance calls for the “boogaloo” (an extremist meme referring to an impending civil war), Antisemitic speech and ideas are being adapted to incorporate COVID-19, and QAnon conspiracy theorists are capitalizing on the pandemic. This resource is found under Flight Crew Resources, DHS category.
  • On Friday, April 10, the FAA sent out a memo to all AMEs that addressed the use of two prophylactic treatments, chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to prevent coronavirus infection. They are disqualifying while on the medication and for 48 hours after the last dose before reporting for flight or other safety related duties. This memo is on our webpage under Flight Crew Resources, FAA subcategory.
  • On Tuesday, April 14, the Department of Transportation issued a Safety Advisory in conjunction with the Federal Transit Authority with the Subject: Recommended Actions to Reduce the Risk of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Among Transit Employees and Passengers. It includes actions on health and disinfection and canbe found under Flight Crew Resources, DOT subcategory. 
  • On Tuesday, April 14, CDC updated its guidance regarding benzalkonium chloride (the active ingredient in Sani-Coms). The guidance specifically answers the following question: Are benzalkonium chloride-containing hand rub products an acceptable alternative to ABHR [Alcohol-Based Hand Rubs] for COVID-19? CDC does not have a recommended alternative to hand rub products with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as active ingredients. Benzalkonium chloride, along with both ethanol and isopropanol, is deemed eligible by FDA for use in the formulation of healthcare personnel hand rubs. However, available evidence indicates benzalkonium chloride has less reliable activity against coronavirus than either of the alcohols. This information is also found on our website under Flight Crew Resources. 
  • On Wednesday, April 15, we added the Johns Hopkins worldwide COVID-19 counter to the main page, as well as under Health and Research. While not an official source of COVID-19 case counts, it is being continuously updated and could be considered a useful tool.
    On Wednesday, April 15, we added a summary document created by the AFL-CIO that explained the different types of facial shields, masks and respirators and breaks down the different variations in an easy to read table. The table gives certification requirements, OSHA Requirements, as well as practical uses. It’s found under the general health precautions tile, AFL-CIO subcategory. 
  • On Wednesday, April 15, an adaptation of NIOSH’s Hierarchy of controls for COVID-19 was posted on the Coronavirus webpage that shows the most effect control mechanism to the least effective. This is found under the general health precautions tile subcategory NIOSH.
  • On Wednesday, April 15 we changed the name of the general health precautions tile to “Health and Research” to better organize the information that is available. Call participants were asked to share any research papers that they think would be helpful to other ALPA members. Relatedly, the NIH has created a repository of COVID-19 related research papers, which is directly accessible from our ALPA coronavirus webpage under the Health and Research section. 
  • On Friday, April 17, the FAA released SAFO 20009, COVID-19: Updated Interim Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Air Carriers and Crews. It highlights details on the cleaning and disinfecting of the flight deck and training facilities and employee notification and states that once a crewmember has a known exposure, FAA does not recommend allowing crewmembers with known exposures to continue to work even if asymptomatic for 14 days, because of the inability of crewmembers to remove themselves from the workplace if they should develop symptoms. The SAFO does address the issue of facial coverings in a limited way, basically saying that facial coverings are allowed if permitted by the air carrier. A risk assessment should be done by the carrier, and if permitted, procedures should be developed. Guidance on relocating/transporting COVID-19 positive crewmembers or those who have been exposed to use a medical transport or private charter is also addressed. This Monday (4/20), Capt. Bob Fox sent out a memo elaborating on this content of this SAFO and Transport Canada guidelines. 
  • On Friday, April 17, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Agency (CISA) released version 3.0 of Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19. Version 3.0 provides clarity on CDC guidance for critical infrastructure workers, that sick workers should avoid the job site, and language that includes transportation-specific education. It also updated language that focused on sustained access and freedom of movement. This document is available under the Flight Crew Resources tile, subcategory DHS/CBP/TSA. 
  • On April 20, a conference call was sponsored by the FAA administrator with CDC personnel and about 400 airline industry reps. FAA had prebriefed all POIs about ensuring compliance with the recent SAFO. The focus of discussion was health monitoring for crewmembers, health protection (cleaning and disinfecting), and notification following a positive test. An FAA Town Hall is planned for May 7 with a focus on safety and ops; ALPA will be invited to participate.
  • Flight Safety Foundation has created a document entitled “An Aviation Professional’s Guide to Wellbeing” that you may find helpful. The World Health Organization defines wellbeing as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” We are all familiar with the idea of mental wellbeing, but it is only one pillar of our overall wellbeing and does not exist independently of our physical and social health. This document is available on our Coronavirus Information Hub in the Flight Crew Resources tile, ALPA Members category under the subcategory Pilot Assistance. 
  • Yesterday, April 21, a letter was sent to Patrice Kelly, acting director, Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance. In the letter, Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA national safety coordinator, requested the immediate action to suspend random drug and alcohol testing for a period of at least 90 days to protect against risks of coronavirus exposure from breathalyzers and urine specimen collections. He also requested that the annual percentage of random tests be reduced to account for the 90-day suspension. 
  • Earlier today, I e-mailed the Aeromedical Committee team a short article from the NEJM regarding antibody testing. Normally, to get FDA approval, diagnostic makers need to run trials to gather evidence on their tests’ performance. This process can take months or years. The FDA is skipping a lot of the typically required steps under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Sensitivity measures the proportion of actual positives that are correctly identified while specificity measures the proportion of actual negatives that are correctly identified. One thing to note is a test can be either highly specific or highly sensitive. Tests that are highly sensitive and highly specific do both, so it "rarely overlooks a thing that it is looking for" and it "rarely mistakes anything else for that thing.” Regarding viral and antibody testing, medical communities are looking for tests that are over 95% accurate. 

April 7 Conference Call Notes

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks

  • On Wednesday, March 25, DHS released a summary document of common questions, information that is known and what needs to be learned regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus strain and COVID-19 disease. This is posted on this website under Flight Crew Resources, DHS Category. 
  • On Thursday, March 26 the FAA issued the Enforcement Policy for Expired Airman Medical Certificates, which stated the following: “The FAA will not take enforcement action against required pilot flight crewmember or flight engineer operating with an expired medical certificate. This policy is effective March 31, 2020 through June 30, 2020.”
  • Late Monday, March 30, the FAA issued an exemption for airmen conducting international operations with respect to medical certificates. This exemption is applicable to medical certificates that expire from March 31, 2020, through May 31, 2020. The medical certificates for these pilots, based on the exemption, are made valid until June 30, 2020; this is only applicable to international operations. The key points for this exemption are the following: 
    • The airline must provide the FAA with a list of pilots and the exemption only applies to Part 121 international operations. 
    • To apply the exemption, the airline must confirm with each individual pilot that they are in agreement to the exemption. 
    • Pilots must have in their physical possession or readily accessible in the aircraft a copy of the grant of exemption when exercising relief provided. 
    • A FastRead NewsFlash was sent out on Tuesday, March 31, explaining the exemption. This information is posted on the ALPA Coronavirus Information website on the main page in the alert box and is available on the Flight Crew Resources page. 
  • An issue has been identified with a number of AMEs deciding to shut their clinic doors during this crisis, and some will not return. ALPA’s Aeromedical Advisor Dr. Quay Snyder is investigating this issue on behalf of ALPA with the FAA Federal Air Surgeon’s office to determine if the agency can start taking steps to increase the number of AMEs proactively to fill the likely reductions in AME services.
  • On Friday, March 27, the CDC raised to its highest alert—Level 3 (Avoid Nonessential Travel)—with regard to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic Notice. This information is available under the Flight Crew Resources tile.
  • On Saturday, March 28, CDC issued a Domestic Travel Advisory for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut due to extensive community transmission of COVID-19 in the area. CDC urges residents of those states to refrain from nonessential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately. This Domestic Travel Advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries.
  • Effective Saturday, March 28, the People’s Republic of China temporarily suspended entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits. American citizens should expect a significant reduction in flights to and from China. Per Chinese aviation authorities, starting March 29, foreign airlines will be required to maintain only one air route to China and operate no more than one flight per week. Flights to and from China should carry no more than 75 percent of the passengers that they are licensed to carry. All international flights into Beijing have been rerouted to regional airports for screening and quarantine, which is mandatory for U.S. citizens (including pilots) entering China. These procedures are not being implemented in a uniform manner and can change without notice. This information is posted under the Resources for Flight Crews tile under the DHS section.
  • Effective Sunday, March 29, the FAA released a document entitled “Disruptions to Drug and Alcohol Testing Due to COVID-19” that follows the document released on March 23 by the Department of Transportation. The DOT guidance document provides clarity to DOT-regulated employers, employees, and service agents on conducting DOT drug-and-alcohol testing given concerns about COVID-19. DOT recognizes that compliance may not be possible in certain areas due to the unavailability of program resources. As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal as per 49 CFR § 40.355(i). In addition to the ODAPC guidance, the following is further information specifically related to the FAA’s testing requirements. For FAA-Regulated Employers: 
    • Random Testing: Airlines are required by 14 CFR §§ 120.109(b) and 120.217(c) to ensure that the dates for administering random alcohol and controlled substances tests are spread reasonably throughout the calendar year, specifically at least quarterly. If, due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency, airlines are unable to perform random tests during the current testing cycle, airlines should make up the tests by the end of the year in order to achieve the required 25 percent rate for drug testing and 10 percent for alcohol testing. 
    • Regarding conducting a preemployment drug test and obtaining a negative result, in accordance with 14 CFR § 120.109(a), airlines are prohibited from hiring or transferring an individual into a safety-sensitive position. The same is true if airlines conduct preemployment alcohol testing in accordance with 14 CFR § 120.217(a). 
    • There are no exceptions for these provisions. 
    • If an airline furloughs an employee and removes the employee from the random testing pool, airlines are permitted under 14 CFR § 120.109(a)(4) to conduct a preemployment drug test of the employee prior to returning the employee to the random pool. 
    • Both of these documents are available on the Coronavirus Information page under the flight crew resources tile under the FAA and DOT subcategories. 
  • On Monday, March 30, CDC guidelines were updated for public health recommendations for community-related exposure. They were updated to accommodate new scientific evidence, evolving epidemiology, and the need to simplify stratification. A summary of the changes includes risk strata descriptions; levels of risk have been  reduced to simplify communications and implementation and removed “no risk” category and replaced with “unknown risk” to acknowledge that all persons in the USA are at some risk of COVID-19 given the increase in community spread. CDC updated the period of exposure risk from “onset of symptoms” to “48 hours before symptom onset.” This information is relevant to any discussions with air carriers regarding the notification of crewmembers who might have been in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Also on Monday, March 30, the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council published a document entitled “COVID-19 Guidance for the Canadian Aviation Industry.” Transport Canada has been working in coordination with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to provide the Canadian aviation industry with guidance to protect crewmembers and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the course of its operations. This document provides guidance to Canadian aviation industry operators regarding crewmembers operating in areas with known or suspected community transmission of COVID-19. This guide should be used in conjunction with the recommendations provided by PHAC and other public health authorities. This document is under the “Flight Crew Resources” tile in English and French. 
  • On Tuesday, March 31, an electronic communication was sent to FAA Administrator Dickson from ALPA president Capt. Joe DePete. This was a request for an immediately effective order, directive, or regulatory requirement ordering air carrier compliance with CDC guidance. The communication addressed a few areas of concern within ALPA. Specifically, we have asked the FAA to notify crewmembers who have been in direct contact with other individuals subsequently to be infected by COVID-19, whether infection is determined by positive test or other medical confirmation. Such notification must include crewmembers exposed to the infected person 48 hours before the infected person became symptomatic. We are aware of airlines claiming to have cleaned aircraft with alcohol-based disinfectants that fail to comply with the minimum 70 percent alcohol-based solution. We suggest including a list of specific products recognized to disinfect for the virus causing COVID-19 such as EPA list N. Like the CDC guidance, the FAA’s SAFO is merely “recommended action” and does not have the force of law or regulation. Written directives with legal authority and the risk of FAA enforcement action, fine, or penalty are necessary to assure full adherence to the CDC standards. Failures to follow these minimum standards risk greater spread of infection and increased loss of life. Accordingly, immediate administrator action is warranted. This communication was subsequently sent to all ALPA pilots in Captain Fox’s all-member message on Thursday, April 2. 
    In late March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a bulletin entitled “COVID-19 & HIPAA Bulletin Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties
  • During a Nationwide Public Health Emergency.” This bulletin explains that the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows patient information to be shared to assist in nationwide public health emergencies and to assist patients in receiving the care they need. In addition, while the HIPAA Privacy Rule is not suspended during a public health or other emergency, the Secretary of HHS may waive certain provisions of the Privacy Rule under the Project Bioshield Act of 2004 and chose to do so effective March 15, 2020. HIPAA Privacy Rule recognizes the legitimate need for public health authorities and others responsible for ensuring public health and safety to have access to protected health information that is necessary to carry out their public health mission. The rule permits covered entities to disclose needed protected health information without individual authorization to a public health authority, at the direction of a public health authority, to a foreign government agency to persons at risk of contracting or spreading a disease or condition if other law, such as state law, authorizes the covered entity to notify such persons as necessary to prevent or control the spread of the disease or otherwise to carry out public health interventions or investigations. This document is available on our ALPA coronavirus information page under Flight Crew Resources in the HHS section. 
  • On Wednesday, April 1, CDC updated its guidance and gave specific guidance on how non-healthcare businesses should proceed with cleaning and disinfecting, what should be used, and the timeline for implementation after a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in a facility. This information is available in the alert box on the main page under “Updated Guidance for Businesses from CDC” as well as in the Health Precautions page.
  • On Thursday, April 2, the FAA created a webpage containing policy deviations, exemptions, and rule changes that have been issued related to FAA COVID-19 certificate holder relief—i.e., the enforcement policy for expired medicals, oxygen mask requirements, etc. This page provides a one-stop resource for this type of information from the FAA that impacts operations and is changing rapidly. We understand the FAA intends to keep this page updated with current information as it changes, please let us know if you have questions about something listed or something you think should be listed. This webpage is listed under Flight Crew Resources under the FAA category.
  • On Friday, April 3, guidance was updated for COVID-19 for the Canadian Aviation Industry. This was originally shared with you on Friday, March 27. Transport Canada updated its policy to include the revised guide. It states that the lead federal agency in charge of coordinating efforts is the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and gives guidance for operators that should follow guidance produced by PHAC. It also gives updated guidance for crew members as well as managing ill persons on board an aircraft. This is all found under Flight Crew Resources under the Government of Canada. 
  • Also on Friday, April 3, CDC updated their guidance for the use of cloth facial coverings in areas of significant community-based transmission of COVID-19. CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. It should be noted that this tactic does not replace social distancing or proper hand hygiene. Direct access to this webpage is available on our Coronavirus information hub, Health Precautions tile in CDC category.
  • As of Monday, April 6, four ALPA properties have shut down their training centers due to positive COVID-19 cases that passed through their doors. This is a good time to make sure that you as an Aeromedical or Safety committee that you work with your training center folks and let them know you’re available as a resource.
  • We have received quite a few questions about Chloroquine and Hydroxycloroquine regarding it’s prophylactic treatment with respect to COVID-19. At this time, it is not approved by the FAA for specifically treating COVID-19.

March 26 Conference Call Notes

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks

  • Regarding the number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States, the CDC has confirmed as of today at noon eastern 68, 440 cases and total deaths 994. There are confirmed cases in all 50 states and the following four districts: District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and U.S. Virgin Islands. The Public Health Agency of Canada reported as of today at 11 a.m. eastern 3,555 confirmed cases, 24 probable cases, and 35 deaths. 
  • On March 20, the ALPA coronavirus webpage received an overhaul to make it easier for pilots to navigate. Some parts are located behind the firewall and will require a member login.
  • We have asked the FAA to grant a 90-day extension for all medicals for all pilots—whether special issuance or a regular medical. The language for that is being drafted currently with the request to be made to the FAA administrator but has not been finalized. When we have an update, we will be sure to pass that along. We are aware that most airlines require their pilots to have their medicals submitted by the 25th of the due month. It is our expectation and understanding that guidance should be published by March 31. 
  • We have been made aware that the FAA is still sending out form letters via certified and regular mail that require a pilot to submit additional information to determine their eligibility for medical certification, and if no documentation is submitted, they may be referred to legal enforcement action to revoke their medical certificate. Knowing that some of the supporting documentation may be hard to supply as many physician offices are not seeing patients, a pilot may seek a one-time 30-day extension to allow some time before possible administrative action. Pilots should contact the ALPA Aeromedical Office for assistance. 
  • CDC updated their guidance on March 23 to include the following countries as a Level 3 travel alert (Avoid Nonessential Travel): Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Israel, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey. The link to the CDC page is available in our Flight Crew Resources section.
  • As more people contract COVID-19, the CDC has issued guidance regarding how long a person should self-quarantine after contracting the illness. The following applies: 
    • Time-since-illness-onset and time-since-recovery strategy (non-test-based strategy)*: Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue home isolation under the  following conditions:
      • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
      • At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
    • Test-based strategy (simplified from initial protocol): Previous recommendations for a test-based strategy remain applicable; however, a test-based strategy is contingent on the availability of ample testing supplies and laboratory capacity as well as convenient access to testing. For jurisdictions that choose to use a test-based strategy, the recommended protocol has been simplified so that only one swab is needed at every sampling.
      • Persons who have COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
      •  Individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms may discontinue home isolation when at least 7 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test and have had no subsequent illness.

      *This recommendation will prevent most, but may not prevent all instances of secondary spread.  The risk of transmission after recovery, is likely very substantially less than that during illness.
      **All test results should be final before isolation is ended. Testing guidance is based upon limited information and is subject to change as more information becomes available. Read more.

  • On Thursday, March 19, a memo was issued by the Department of Homeland Security regarding the identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. The information is posted under the Flight Crew Resources section of this page; DHS category. It specifically states: “Air transportation employees, including air traffic controllers, ramp personnel, aviation security, and aviation management. Workers who support the maintenance and operation of cargo by air transportation, including flight crews, maintenance, airport operations, and other on- and off- airport facilities workers.”
  • On March 20, the TSA published a document for aircraft operators: “Beginning March 17, 2020, TSA has approved the acceptance of any state-issued driver’s license presented to an aircraft operator that expires on or after March 1, 2020. The acceptance of drivers licenses that are expired as of March 1, 2020 will continue for a year after expiration or 60 days after the duration of this emergency, whichever is longer.” The document went out as a security briefing and is also available in the Flight Crew Resources section of this webpage. DHS announced today (March 26) that it will delay the implementation of Real ID drivers licenses for one full year. The requirement for use of Real ID was to have gone into effect October 1, 2020, but will now go into effect October 1, 2021. ALPA has recently communicated to members about the need to obtain these drivers’ licenses if they or their traveling companions use them for their travels.
  • DHS issued the following press release on March 20 as well (also accessible Flight Crew Resources on this page, DHS category):
“The U.S. and Mexican governments further recognize critical services such as food, fuel, healthcare and life-saving medicines must reach people on both sides of the border every day. Essential travel must therefore continue unimpeded during this time. In order to ensure that essential travel can continue, the United States and Mexico are also temporarily restricting all non-essential travel across its borders.“‘Non-essential’ travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. Additionally, we are encouraging people to exercise caution by avoiding unnecessary contact with others.
“This collaborative and reciprocal initiative is an extension of our nations’ prudent approach that values the health and safety of our citizens in the joint decisions made by our respective leaders regarding cross-border operations.
“This joint initiative will commence at 00:01 Saturday March 21 throughout the US-Mexico land border for a period of 30 days subject to extension upon review.” 
  • A new resource is available under Flight Crew Resources for a TSA page that tracks where TSA officers have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days. Please note that if a TSA officer tested positive outside of the 14-day window, that location will drop off of the map.
  • On March 21, the CDC updated their interim guidance for businesses and employers in response to COVID-19. In this update, they updated cleaning and disinfecting guidance, best practices for social distancing, and strategies and recommendations that can be implemented. One thing to note is that if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform employees of their possible exposure, however maintain confidentiality as required by the ADA.
  • First Vice President Bob Fox’s March 25 All Member Message contains a lot of good information about COVID-19 related activities, including several bulletins. One concerns the use of oxygen masks. Effective March 23, 2020, the FAA issued a rule change to FAR Part 121.333 for the required use of oxygen masks. An Operations Bulletin was published on March 24 to notify pilots of the rule change. It increases the flight level threshold from above flight level 250 to above flight level 410, at which the FAA requires a pilot at the controls to put on and use the required oxygen mask while the other pilot leaves his or her control station.
  • A Security Alert Bulletin was sent out to all members on March 24 to remind pilots to adhere to all safety and security protocols. Please be mindful of opportunistic/circumstantial threats in the realm of Cybersecurity, which includes email phishing schemes disguised as: charitable contributions, general financial relief, airline carrier refunds, fake cures and vaccines and fake testing kits. Continue to practice strict flight deck door opening and closing procedures. Crews should endeavor to maintain strict adherence to both the display and checking of airline identification material, including the verification of crew, airport, company, and government IDs. Lastly, if you observe any behavior or actions by a coworker that you consider to be troubling or concerning, please know that additional support is available.
  • On March 24, Pilot Assistance published a bulletin "Professional Pride," reminding us that we are in command of our own attitude and effort. Our professionalism is under a microscope right now, and this is a great opportunity to show the world what we are all about. Every passenger, flight attendant, mechanic, agent, and ramp line worker is looking to us for leadership.
  • Last night (March 25), the U.S. Congress and White House agreed to bipartisan legislation to stabilize the airline industry. Some key points in the bill:
  • As more people contract COVID-19, the CDC has issued guidance regarding how long a person should self-quarantine after contracting the illness. The following applies: 
    • Package grants for worker payrolls,
    • Protective language to ensure that negotiated collective bargaining agreements are not abrogated,
    • Furlough limits,
    • Restrictions on executive compensation, and
    • A prohibition on stock buybacks that receive federal aid.
  • In Canada, the government has also reached an agreement on broad economic relief in response to COVID-19. ALPA Canada is engaged with the prime minister’s office and various federal ministries to promote ALPA’s priorities to stabilize the Canadian airline industry and protect frontline aviation workers. Canada has also issued new rules on admittance to the country ,which are being posted on our website. The rules include testing passengers at the gate for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight to Canada; crews are exempted.

March 19 Conference Call Notes

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks

  • Since February 1, 2020, we’ve had 22,221 unique visitors to the coronavirus resources page. That averages out to 505 views per day. In the last 10 days, we have seen an uptick to more than 1,220 hits per day.
  • You will notice certain resources on the pages are located in our members-only section and require you to log in with your ALPA member information to see the information. 
  • The CDC has changed their reporting updates of U.S. cases. They will report case counts daily and update their statistics at noon eastern. As of today (March 19), the official case count in the United States is 10,442 cases, 150 deaths, and all 50 states have reported cases as well as four jurisdictions (District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and U.S. Virgin Islands). 
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada will issue daily case counts as well. The total cases in Canada as of 11:30 a.m. eastern (March 19) was 736 cases with 34 deaths. 
  • Yesterday (March 18), the U.S. Senate passed the second phase of the coronavirus stimulus package. The third phase is supposed to be voted on as early as next week. 
  • Issues have been reported in certain states regarding AME offices closing due to COVID-19. If you are on a special issuance medical, we are currently working to have extensions granted if your medical is up for renewal and you are not able to get into an AME. There is an expectation that air traffic controllers are going to be allowed to have their medicals extended by three months, and we are working to grant that same extension to pilots. Pilots in the HIMS Program are reporting difficulties complying with the requirements of their special issuance, as some aftercares, drug testing facilities and AA/NA meetings are closed temporarily. Please work with your HIMS chairman to make sure all protocols are followed to the best of your ability. Please keep detailed written records of all HIMS activities for documentation purposes. 
  • Transport Canada issued the following order on March 17: “All persons who currently hold a valid Transport Canada aviation Medical Certificate (MC) expiring on or before June 1, 2020, may continue to exercise the privileges of their permits, licenses, or ratings until August 1, 2020 subject to the conditions listed in the exemption notice dated March 17, 2020.” The full document is available in the resources section of ALPA’s coronavirus page. 
  • A number of MECs are in discussion with their airlines to develop MOUs about sick leave and other COVID-19 issues. These discussions are changing by the minute, so we suggest that you talk with your MEC representatives, staff, and legal representatives to let them know you are available as a resource. Certain caveats have been addressed as pilots are suspected of COVID-19, but due to a shortage in certain areas, they may not be tested. 
  • From a safety standpoint, I’ve asked ALPA’s national Safety Chair Steve Jangelis to talk about current events causing distractions in the flight deck. A Safety Alert was published on March 19 and is available in the resources section of ALPA’s coronavirus page.
  • You can find COVID-19 test kits by location in the General Health resources on ALPA’s coronavirus page. This resource is provided by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. We recommend calling in advance to ensure the tests are available. 
  • A list of EPA-approved disinfectants is also available in the resources section. There has been a lot of confusion between “sanitizers” and “disinfectants.” The FDA governs sanitizers, and the EPA governs disinfectants. A sanitizer reduces the number of bacteria (not viruses) on surfaces. A sanitizer must work within 30 seconds to be considered effective. A disinfectant lowers the amount of infectious fungi, bacteria, and viruses (not bacterial spores) on hard environmental surfaces. 

  • A study was recently published by the New England Journal of Medicine regarding the viability of SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19). This study proves the following: SARS-CoV-2 is viable in the respiratory droplets at least 3 hours. The following surfaces were tested for viability: copper, cardboard, plastic, and stainless steel (flight deck components). The study showed that SARS-CoV-2 was viable on copper for 4 hours, cardboard for 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for 3 days.
  • Canada has published disinfectant protocols for Canadian carriers—available on ALPA’s page in English and French. 
  • On March 13, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) advised Canadians to avoid all nonessential travel outside Canada in view of the worldwide pandemic and the rapidly evolving situation globally, and all travelers should self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada—with notable exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people.
    • Under the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport will require air operators to deny boarding of a traveler who is symptomatic (regardless of citizenship status) and keep them from going on an international flight to Canada (including a trans-border flight).
    • Air operators will be required to do a basic health assessment of all air travelers before they board the flight based on guidance from PHAC. This would include the operator asking simple health questions, looking for visible signs of illness prior to boarding, and possibly referring the traveler for a further medical assessment.
    • In the event the traveler presents COVID-19 symptoms, the air carrier will be required to refuse to board the passenger for travel for a period of 14 days and a demonstration that they are non-symptomatic, or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms the patient does not carry the virus.
    • Airlines were asked to begin implementation immediately and to have fully in place by Thursday, March 19, at 00:01 a.m. EDT.
    • Exceptions exist for travel associated with the movement of healthy workers in the trades and transportation sector such as flight crews, truck drivers, railroaders, mariners, or the movement of other healthy workers across the border to go to work, including health-care providers and critical infrastructure workers. These workers are asked to closely self-monitor and self-isolate immediately should they exhibit any symptoms. It is recommended that employers in these sectors conduct active daily monitoring of their staff for COVID-19 symptoms.
    • The full notice is available on ALPA’s coronavirus webpage.
  • Many questions have been raised regarding how to self-monitor as the exposure rate is increasing. The CDC has issued guidance, including a printable document that walks you through how to self-monitor and a recording booklet. 
  • The health orders that have been issued by certain U.S. counties have, for the most part, included an exemption for transportation workers that includes airline pilots. If you are in a county (living or working) that has issued a health order, be prepared for a difficult time in finding restaurants or facilities that are open. We suggest checking with your MEC to see if any agreements have been made regarding food arrangements for flight crews. ALPA will not be including individual county health orders on this webpage due to the sheer number of counties around the United States.
  • A recent FastRead NewsFlash included information on the support programs and resources available to members in stressful times like these. This includes all of the ASO Pilot Assistance groups: Aeromedical, CIRP, HIMS, ProStans, and Canadian Pilot Assistance. The Pilot Peer Support hotline (or your MEC’s specific program: DAL PAN, FDX PATH, JBU PAN/PPS, UAL SOAR, and Canadian Peer Assistance) is available to take your call.
  • A Presidential Proclamation was issued on March 12, 2020, to include European Schengen area and then modified on March 14, 2020, to include the UK and Ireland. According to the FAA SAFO that was issued on March 12, 2020, flight crews are still exempt. ALPA first vice president Capt. Bob Fox sent out an update that explained the SAFO and what crews could expect. 
  • The State Department issued a level 4 (Do Not Travel) for global travel on March 19, 2020. 
  • All passengers who are returning from restricted countries must reenter the United States through the following 13 airports: 
    • Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
    • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
    • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
    • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
    • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
    • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
    • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
    • Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
    • Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
    • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
    • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
    • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
    • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia 
  •  All passengers entering Canada must enter through the following four airports: 
    • Vancouver International Airport CYVR
    • Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport CYUL
    • Calgary International Airport CYYC
    • Toronto Pearson International Airport CYOW
  • CBP issued the following clarification for crew today (March 19) and will be posted on the website: “The suspension of entry under the proclamation applies to individuals listed in the March 16, 2020 Carrier Liaison Bulletin. Maritime industry includes:  Any alien traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or any alien otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew. Crew, and flights carrying only cargo (i.e., no passengers or non-crew), are excluded from this requirement. This includes deadheading crew.”

March 19 Update: Transport Canada Medicals

In light of COVID-19, Transport Canada issued an exemption regarding medical certificates: “[A]ll persons who currently hold a valid Transport Canada aviation Medical Certificate (MC) expiring on or before June 1, 2020, may continue to exercise the privileges of their permits, licenses, or ratings until August 1, 2020, subject to the conditions listed in the exemption notice dated March 17, 2020.”

Read the full document in English or French.

March 17 Update: AME Office Closures and FAA Medicals

ALPA has received reports from members that some AME offices have closed due to COVID-19 concerns. These are private medical practices that provide AME services in addition to routine health-care services to the public. The closings are by individual physician choice and to date not the result of any policy decision by FAA. In addition, we have had reports that some medical providers are not performing any elective procedures, including those that may be required for renewal of medical certificates by AMEs (e.g., EKG). While we have been told that FAA is not considering changes to the duration of your medical certificate, ALPA has asked FAA to consider a three-month extension of medical certificates that are approaching expiration. ALPA recommends that any member who has a medical due soon should check with your AME and, if necessary, get a referral to another practice offering AME services.   

March 10 Update

CDC has published interim guidance that all U.S. organizations must have a plan in place to assess and manage the risk of potential exposures to COVID-19. ALPA encourages members to urge their carriers to implement the required measures. Read the guidance.


Aeromedical Conference CallMarch 5, 2020

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks (DAL)

  • Letters were sent to House and Senate appropriators and chairs of the authorizing committees by the AFL-CIO calling for an emergency supplemental appropriations package that will support the first phases of a national response to the public health emergency presented by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. On Tuesday, March 3, the House passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020—an $8.3 billion measure to fund the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The measure passed nearly unanimously and will now head to the Senate, which is expected to pass it as early as today (Thursday, March 5).
    • UPDATE: The Senate passed the measure on March 5, and the president signed it on March 6.
  • WHO and CDC numbers as of March 4, 2020:
    • Globally: 93,090 confirmed (2,223 new)
    • United States: 129 cases; 9 deaths
    • China: 80,422 confirmed (120 new); 2,984 deaths (38 new) 
    • Outside of China: 12,668 confirmed (2,103 new); 76 countries (4 new); 214 deaths (48 new)
    • For comparison: CDC flu season (October 1, 2019 through February 22, 2020) numbers so far: 32–45 million ill; 14–21 million med visits; 310,000–560,000 hospitalizations; 18,000–46,000 deaths
  • COVID-19 signs and symptoms based off of the WHO-China joint mission include fever (87.9%), dry cough (67.7%), fatigue (38.1%), sputum production (33.4%), shortness of breath (18.6%), sore throat (13.9%), headache (13.6%), myalgia or arthralgia [muscle or joint aches] (14.8%), chills (11.4%), nausea or vomiting (5.0%), nasal congestion (4.8%), diarrhea (3.7%), hemoptysis [coughing up blood] (0.9%), and conjunctival congestion [bloodshot eyes] (0.8%). 
  • People with COVID-19 generally develop signs and symptoms, including mild respiratory symptoms and fever, on an average of 5 to 6 days after infection (mean incubation period 5-6 days; range 1-14 days).
  • ALPA’s coronavirus information page is now available in the ALPA app through a banner on the app home screen.
  • Recent statement on CDC website: While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggest serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with underlying health conditions, like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, were about twice as likely to develop serious outcomes versus otherwise younger, healthier people.
  • CDC has issued the following travel guidance related to COVID-19: 
    • State and local municipalities have the authority to create additional quarantine rules/regulations to exceed those of CDC/CBP. 
    • The state of Georgia has done so, as has Orange County, CA. There may be others of which we’re not aware. 
    • ALPA has had conversations with the CDC regarding this, and CDC has passed along our concerns to the local and state health institutions. 
    • Please keep reports coming if any of our pilots are running into a mandatory self-quarantine by a local or state entity.
  • A pilot reported this week that the feds at DFW have changed their screening methodology for a flight from Narita. We’re trying to determine what has caused that change. It should also be noted that if an airline is still flying into a country where the COVID-19 outbreak is occurring, do not be surprised if airport personnel come on board to take the crew’s temperature—regardless if laying over or completing a turn in the country.
  • Because the virus is starting to spread throughout the world, we highly recommend keeping a close eye on the IATA Travel Centre page regarding all international travel. Many countries are changing the policies regarding what nationalities are allowed to enter each country. There are now more than 80 countries with entry requirements (including the United States). 
  • The CDC has provided a list of EPA-preapproved disinfectants that are effective against emerging enveloped viruses and could be used during the COVID-19 outbreak Some of these cleaning disinfectants may not be approved for aviation. We are working with the manufacturers to get an updated list of approved cleaning products for the flight deck. 
  • The defective tests for COVID-19 have been resolved and almost every state has completed testing. The following states are in the progress of confirming they have accurate tests available to their residents: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia. (This is not a list of states that have active cases.) 
  • As a reminder, ALPA is continually providing updated information on the COVID-19 outbreak on this website (www.alpa.org/coronavirus), which should be the first source of information for ALPA members. 

Aeromedical Conference Call—February 25, 2020 

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks (DAL)

  • As of yesterday (February 24, 2020), the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the COVID-19 outbreak continues to affect thousands, the vast majority of whom are in China. Globally, there have been 79,331 cases reported, with all but 2,069 of those within mainland China. The mortality rate is approximately 3.3 percent for all cases.  
  • To put COVID-19 into perspective:
    • In just the United States, as of February 21, 2020, there have been 29 million U.S. cases of influenza, including 3 million in the last week; 280,000 hospitalizations; and 16,000 deaths (6.7 percent of all U.S. deaths last week). Read more
    • By comparison, as of February 24, there have been 53 COVID-19 cases in the United States (12 travel-related, 2 person-to-person, 39 repatriated from Wuhan and Diamond Princess cruise ship) and zero deaths. Source: CDC.
    • To date, there have been 11 COVID-19 cases in Canada (10 travel-related, 1 person-to-person transmission) and zero deaths. Canada has had some citizens repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship; however, they have not confirmed how many cases of COVID-19 came from the ship.
  • From a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) telecon update held on February 21, 2020:
    • The CDC will report cases of COVID-19 beginning today and going forward. They are making case counts in two tables: one only tracks people who were repatriated by the State Department, and the second tracks all other cases picked up through U.S. public health network. CDC will update these numbers every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 
    • The disease is not spreading in the United States yet, but it is possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen. Our goal continues to be slowing the introduction of the virus into the United States. This buys more time to prepare our communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread. 
    • The CDC is directing everyone to a document (a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report titled “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza, United States–2017”) that will be highly informative in terms of what people can expect in the coming weeks if the virus starts spreading in our community. The CDC is reviewing the materials and adapting them to COVID-19. These materials will serve as a blueprint for the community interventions to be used in the United States. 
    • By the end of this week, CDC expects to post a new webpage focused on what the agency is doing to mitigate COVID-19 transmission in communities. 
  • From a WHO telecon held on February 24, 2020:
    • Today the WHO-China joint mission concluded its visit and delivered its report. The team traveled to several different provinces, including Wuhan. It made a range of findings about the transmissibility of the virus, the severity of disease and the impact of the measures taken. Specifically, it found that the epidemic peaked and plateaued between January 23 and February 2 and has been declining steadily since.
    • The group found that there has been no significant change in the DNA of the virus. It also determined that the fatality rate is between 2 and 4 percent in Wuhan, and 0.7 percent outside Wuhan. For those individuals with a mild disease, recovery time is about two weeks, while people with severe or critical disease recover within three to six weeks.
  • CDC has issued the following new Level 2 alerts (Practice Enhanced Precautions) for the following countries: Japan, Iran, and Italy. A Level 3 alert (Avoid Nonessential Travel) remains in effect for China and was issued for South Korea today. 
  • U.S. State Department issued Level 2 alerts (Exercise Increased Caution) for the following countries: Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong. The State Department has updated the Level 4 alert (Do Not Travel) issued for China to include cruise ships going through Asia.
  • Since our last call, we have received and distributed to our Aeromedical and Safety groups two new documents, which are also posted on ALPA’s coronavirus website:
    • An order issued by CDC and distributed by FAA ordering passenger carriers to collect and submit specific data from passengers who were in China within 14 days of entering the United States. That document has been distributed to posted on ALPA’s Aeromedical and Safety groups, and it’s posted under resources on this page.
    • CDC and CBP issued screening protocols for flight and cabin crews at U.S. Ports of Entry on February 18. Most importantly, it says that crews are exempt from health screening unless they exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus.
  • The CDC has requested an update in the Federal Register for reporting requirements for COVID-19 due to the number of people that transit from China to the United States (fiscal year 2019 there was an average of 14,000/day). This directly affects 42 CFR Part 71 airline reporting requirements. All A4A carrier legal teams have been participating in telecons with the CDC, IATA and other governmental agencies. Right now, the discussion is centered on longer term automated collection and transmission process of five data points from CUs that fit a travel profile that has a nexus to China over a previous 14-day period. That profile may change with recent developments around the virus and where it’s showing up. Based on the CDC’s experience, in order to conduct effective contact tracing of individuals who may be arriving from the United States from abroad, it’s critical to have the following information: 
    •  Full name, address while in the United States, e-mail address, primary phone number and secondary phone number.
    • By this interim final rule, the CDC requires airlines to collect and submit via electronic means to CDC, beginning within 24 hours of an order from the director, the data above regarding passengers and crew arriving on flights in the United States from foreign countries.
  • As a reminder, CDC recommendations for slowing the spread of SARS-CoV2 virus are shown on this fact sheet, which includes the information below:
    • Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferably if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
    • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day. High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions.
    •  Cover your coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can; immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
    • Avoid sharing personal household items. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
  • The CDC confirmed that the first round of COVID-19 test kits that were manufactured and went out to state testing facilities were found to be defective. The FDA is working to make more test kits, with better oversight. What this means is that the test kits are only available from the CDC, and your local health provider will need to get in contact with the CDC for a test kit; it does make it more difficult to get a test. If you do not meet the insurance criteria to receive a test kit, expect to pay out of pocket for the test. 
  • We are getting reports that certain state and local health institutions have issued self-quarantines to pilots who have traveled to China for work purposes. Right now, we’re trying to determine why those agencies are not complying with the CDC reporting. If any pilots have received notice from their local or state health authorities in this regard, it is imperative to let ALPA know so we can work with the FAA and CDC to get this situation resolved. 
  • We are presently hearing very few questions or concerns from members about airline operations related to COVID-19, which we take as good news. But one reason for holding these calls is to give you an opportunity to do so.
  • ALPA is continually updating information on the COVID 19 outbreak on this webpage, which should be the first source of information for ALPA members..
  • Let us know of any needs that you may have at any time.

Aeromedical Conference Call—February 14, 2020

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks (DAL)

  • As of February 13, CDC reported that the coronavirus outbreak, which WHO and CDC now call COVID-19, continues to affect thousands, the vast majority of which are in China. Globally, there have been about 47,000 cases reported, with all but about 450 of those within mainland China. The mortality rate is approximately 2 percent for all cases, but this is subject to change as time passes and we learn more.
  • Since airport screening began in mid-January, CDC and its government partners have screened more than 30,000 passengers arriving from China. With the temporary restrictions on travel, CDC is seeing fewer and fewer travelers from China, especially from Hubei province. As stated last week, passengers coming into the United States are being funneled through 11 airports. Most of these travelers are coming from parts of mainland China outside of Hubei and show no symptoms, nor are they assessed as high risk. Those who pass the screening continue to their destination where they self-monitor their health for 14 days in cooperation with their state and local health departments. 
  • Last week, several asymptomatic pilots reported being held with symptomatic passengers at three airport locations: ORD, EWR, and SFO. After numerous tries, ALPA was successful in reaching CDC to report these anomalies, and we believe that the agency has resolved the screening issues with CBP.
  • ALPA Pilot Assistance Chair John Taylor spoke with the FAA chief of staff, Angela Stubblefield, yesterday (February 13) to request emergency contact information for CDC to avoid a repeat, which she has provided. We also requested that DOT hold another conference call with government and industry as they did on February 4, and she agreed to pursue that with DOT for a call perhaps weekly.
  • CDC has confirmed another person in the United States who has been infected with COVID-19, which brings the total to 15; there have been no U.S. fatalities from it to date. 
  • On last week’s call, it was noted that Hong Kong authorities had announced a mandatory quarantine for individuals entering the country who had been in mainland China within the previous 14 days beginning February 8. On February 7, the Hong Kong government issued guidance on the quarantine that exempts airline pilots but requires them to wear masks and have their temperatures taken while in HKG. This guidance was posted to the ALPA coronavirus webpage last week.
  • There is a new e-mail address for those who have a question or concern about the outbreak: Coronavirus@alpa.org. Several ASO reps are monitoring this account and will reply to inquiries as they arrive.
  • We are presently hearing very few questions or concerns from members about airline operations as related to COVID-19, which we take as good news.
  • As a reminder, ALPA is continually updating information on the COVID-19 outbreak on this page, which should be the first source of information for ALPA members. 

Aeromedical Conference Call—February 6, 2020

Hosted by ASO Aeromedical Chair Ellen Brinks (DAL)

  • ALPA is continually updating information on the COVID-19 outbreak on this webpage, which should be the first source of information for ALPA members. Inaccurate information is being disseminated from some quarters, and that should be avoided.
  • FAA and CDC issued interim health guidance for airlines and crews on February 2, which members are encouraged to read.
  • Measures have been implemented at three international airports in Canada (i.e., Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver) to identify any travelers returning to Canada who may be ill and raise awareness among travelers about what they should do if they become sick.
  • ALPA’s Pilot Assistance group and Engineering and Air Safety Department reps submitted numerous questions to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for a February 4 call that DOT sponsored with Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security. Those questions and their answers are on this page in the section “U.S. Government Answers to ALPA Concerns.”
  • Pilots are reminded to report deaths and sick passengers onboard to the appropriate authorities. Details are available from the CDC
  • It was noted that Air Canada, American, Delta, and United have all suspended flights to China or its major cities until February 29, March 27, April 30 and March 28, respectively. FDX has opted to continue operating in China.
  • Hong Kong authorities have announced a mandatory quarantine for individuals entering the country who have been in mainland China within the previous 14 days beginning February 8. ALPA is endeavoring to determine whether the quarantine applies to crewmembers.
    • UPDATE: On February 7, the Hong Kong government issued guidance on the quarantine that exempts airline pilots but requires them to wear masks and have their temperatures taken while in HKG.
  • In a joint industry letter, which ALPA spearheaded, we asked FAA Administrator Dickson in December to quickly implement a congressionally mandated regulation that permits crews to abstain from donning an oxygen mask when one crewmember is away from the controls, up to FL410. ALPA is developing another such letter with industry that emphasizes the health risks associated with the COVID-19 in this regard.
  • The ASO is reviewing aircraft and personal protective equipment standards as related to mitigating the risk of the COVID-19.

U.S. Government Call—February 4, 2020

On February 4, ALPA participated in a call with the U.S. government (USG) to address members' immediate concerns. ALPA asked the following questions:

Q1. Is the CDC guidance concerning cleaning of commercial passenger aircraft for the ebola virus also being used for the coronavirus, or is there other guidance on this specific outbreak? If other guidance is being used, please identify it.
A1. CDC is updating the ebola guidance for use with the nCoV. There are no special recommendations in this regard at present.

Q2. Is FAA or any other government agency monitoring and overseeing the sanitizing of aircraft? Are all-cargo aircraft operating in China required to be sanitized? If yes, what guidance is to be followed for doing so? Is FAA or another agency monitoring/overseeing this activity?
A2. Sanitization is an airline responsibility, and FAA doesn’t monitor this activity. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to update its website with info regarding aircraft cleaning, aviation workers, and jurisdiction of this responsibility. (Note: The OSHA rep stated that nCoV isn’t a bloodborne pathogen, so it will be interesting to see what they say about jurisdiction over infectious diseases, over which they do not have authority on aircraft.)

Q3. Are pilots, whether as part of an operating crew or in some other status, required to undergo health screening if they develop flu-like symptoms while traveling into the U.S. from origins other than China?
A3. During check-in/boarding process, airline reps may deny boarding to anyone who appears to be sick. A medical certificate is required to board, if one is denied, per 14 CFR 382.21.

Q4. Who is responsible and how are pilots being updated as countries change guidelines and acceptance of aircraft operations?
A4. It’s up to the airlines to provide this information to employees.

Q5. Is there a single point of contact for updated information concerning aviation and the outbreak?
A5. Not addressed on the call, but we are using our USG contacts on this issue, with DOT and others.

Q6. Has the USG determined definitively how long the nCoV will live on hard surfaces? Can you verify that the virus will live outside a host for 2 to 12 hours?
A6. CDC doesn’t know the lifespan of nCoV on hard surfaces yet, but they believe it is of short duration. There is a low probability of transmission of the virus except by person-to-person (i.e., sneezing, coughing, etc.) 
 
Q7. Has the USG undertaken a review of the liability issues regarding the requirement for pilots employed by Part 121 airlines to continue operations into China?
A7. The USG hasn’t reviewed liability for pilots operating in China. The USG isn’t requiring airlines to operate there, so the liability issue would be one for the airlines.

Q8. Could you verify that asymptomatic persons are still considered noncontagious?
A7. The degree of contagion is linked to demonstrated symptoms. The speed of the virus’s spread indicates that it could be transferred by mildly sick people through coughing and sneezing.

Q9. With multiple countries closing their borders to passengers who have been to China, is the DOT working to get an exception for airline crewmembers?
A9. The USG isn’t tracking or involved in country closures to passengers or crews coming from China.