Delta Is Teaming Up With the CDC for Contact Tracing on International Flights

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Editor’s note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.

Delta will become the first U.S. airline to partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a contact tracing program for international travelers. 

Beginning Dec. 15, Delta will ask passengers flying to the U.S. from abroad to voluntarily provide their full name, email address, address in the U.S., and two phone numbers to aid in contact tracing and public health follow-up efforts. 

The airline will then pass the information onto the CDC via U.S. Customs and Border Protection, allowing the CDC to quickly access the information and cut down the amount of time it takes to alert a passenger they may have been exposed to the virus. The reduced time could help reduce further cases of potential exposure. 

When a COVID-19 case is confirmed after a flight, the CDC will request the information of the passengers seated two seats around the confirmed case. That information is then passed onto local health departments for follow-up. The airline retains the information “for no longer than is necessary to achieve the contact tracing and public health follow-up objectives, or as required by Customs and Border Protection,” according to a press release. 

Video: Aircraft carrier returns home after virus outbreak (USA TODAY)

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“Independent studies have shown that the many layers of protection Delta has already put in place are effectively minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and contact tracing adds one more important layer to our efforts to ensure safety throughout travel,” Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer, said in a statement. “We want customers to feel safe when they return to travel, and this voluntary program is another way we can provide additional reassurance to customers and employees alike.”  

Delta has responded to the pandemic with increased employee testing and doubling its pre-flight cabin cleaning staff. The airline will also continue its policy of blocking middle seats onboard aircraft through at least March 2021. 

Last week, Delta also introduced “quarantine-free” flights between Atlanta and Rome, where all passengers must present negative COVID-19 test results before boarding. 

The CDC has also reduced the required quarantine time after a possibly exposure to COVID-19 from two weeks to 10 days.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, on Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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