Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19)

Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19)

Updated March 30, 2020

The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. This page contains the latest information on the outbreak and resources for aviation's first responders. 

1. COVID-19 Overview
2. Crew Actions Following COVID-19 Exposure
3. AFA and Airline Industry
4. AFA EAP Resources: Coping, Finances, Support System
5. Union Action to Combat COVID-19  
6. Latest News and Media Resources
7. Resources for Flight Attendants to Guard Against the Spread of Infection
8. Government Action

1. COVID-19 Overview

The virus, which has now infected more than 638,146 and killed at least 30,039 people, has spread rapidly to more than 203 countries, including the U.S. The World Health Organization has labeled it a global pandemic. 

Symptoms of COVID-19

  • Common: fever, tiredness, and dry cough.
  • Some may have: aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.
  • Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. However, this makes the spread harder to contain and puts others at risk.

According to the World Health Organization, studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.

2. Crew Actions Following COVID-19 Exposure

If you learn that you have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, call your physician and follow their instructions. Do not go to a doctor's office unless advised to do so. 

Report to AFA Exposure to COVID-19 >

The CDC guidance to passengers who have come in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case on their flight, is to self-quarantine, contact health authorities, and monitor health for 14 days. The guidelines provide an exemption for crew. AFA does not agree with this guidance. We advise all Flight Attendants in these situations to follow the passenger CDC guidance and advise the company that you do not feel safe to fly. Self-quarantine for 14 days, contact your local health authorities, and monitor for symptoms. AFA is advising all airlines and contacting the FAA, CDC, and lawmakers to get CDC guidance updated. 

State and Local Health Department Contact Numbers >
If in Guam, call 671-735-7143; after hours and weekends, 888-WARN (9276).

Interim Health Guidance from FAA and CDC (COVID-19) >

3. AFA and Airline Industry 

As this virus spreads, AFA leadership continues to press airlines for proper resources and procedures to mitigate risk to working crews. While airlines have not fully implemented AFA’s recommendations, management has taken actions that exceed CDC guidelines and instruction. Immediate Operational Actions to Stop Spread of COVID-19 >

Airlines are also consistently assessing pull down of flying to infected regions and AFA is working to ensure Flight Attendants are receiving contractual pay and rescheduling protections. There is on-going assessment of the schedule, risk mitigation and passenger demand.

The reduction of flying has had an economic effect on Flight Attendants at some airlines. AFA leaders at each airline are working directly with airline management through our contracts and other means to mitigate the impact to Flight Attendants.

Airline, Airport, and Union Coalition Calls for Urgent Action to Protect U.S. Aviation Employees >

OP-ED: Here’s a Rescue Plan That Puts People First >

4. AFA EAP Resources: Coping, Finances, Support System

Contact AFA’s Employee Assistance Program: 1-800-424-2406

5. Union Action to Combat COVID-19  

Update March 14 — AFA is on Capitol Hill interfacing with lawmakers to advocate for financial relief for individual workers and airlines in a way that best combats the virus, promotes direct support of continued paychecks, healthcare, and financial viability of the airlines. We are pushing for any relief to include restrictions on stock buy backs, dividends, executive bonuses, using funds in any way to undermine worker rights – in addition to other key provisions for long-term protections for workers, our families, our contracts, and our jobs. We will keep Flight Attendants informed as we push forward and advise you on what you can do to help push lawmakers and the White House to enact these protections.

March 14 Communication on Loss of Flying >

AFA and AFT, representing Flight Attendants, Nurses and Teachers, called on the U.S. government for a coordinated response on February 4, 2020.

AFA and CWA leadership are coordinating with the rest of the labor movement as we do all we can through our unions to prevent the spread of the virus, keep people safe in our workplaces and encourage employers to take steps that promote good information and encourage employees to prioritize health with good healthcare, sick leave and pay protections.

6. Latest News and Media Resources

7. Resources for Flight Attendants to Guard Against the Spread of Infection

Q: What is it?

"[The COVID-19] virus is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it comes from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city." (Source: The Guardian)

Q: What are the symptoms?

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Q: How serious is it?

The COVID-19 virus is a global pandemic. The WHO is keeping a live infection count at

Q: How should I protect myself if I’m working a trip to/from an infected region?

CDC recommends the following measures for cabin crew to protect themselves, manage a sick traveler, clean contaminated areas, and take actions after a flight:

Practice routine hand-washing.

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after assisting sick travelers or touching potentially contaminated body fluids or surfaces.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.

Follow standard precautions to prevent healthcare-associated infections

Identify sick travelers who meet the above description.

  • Minimize contact between passengers and cabin crew and the sick person. If possible, separate the sick person from others (6 feet is ideal) and designate one crew member to serve the sick person.
  • Offer a facemask, if available and if the sick person can tolerate it. If a facemask is not available or cannot be tolerated, ask the sick person to cover their mouth and nose with tissues when coughing or sneezing.

Treat all body fluids (such as respiratory secretions, diarrhea, vomit, or blood) as if they are infectious.

  • Wear disposable gloves when tending to a sick traveler or touching body fluids or potentially contaminated surfaces. Remove gloves carefully to avoid contaminating yourself, then wash hands.
  • When tending to a sick traveler from an infected region who has fever, persistent cough, or difficulty breathing, use additional protective equipment in the Universal Precaution Kit face mask, eye protection, and a gown to cover clothing.
  • Properly dispose of gloves and other disposable items that came in contact with the sick person or body fluids in biohazard bag or a secured plastic bag labeled as “biohazard.”

Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces according to airline protocol.

Report, as soon as possible before arrival, by one of the methods described in the Guidance for Air Travel Industry Reporting of Onboard Death or Illnesses to CDC.

Review CDC’s Infection Control Guidelines for Cabin Crew

  • CDC recommends that companies review and update, as needed, their personal protection policies and communicate and train employees on how to manage sick travelers.

Q: How can I tell, and what should I do, if I might be infected?

If you develop a fever [Note: Fever may not be present in some patients, such as those who are very young, elderly, immunosuppressed, or taking certain fever-lowering medications] and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from an infected region, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact.

If you have had close contact [Note: Close contact is approximately 6 ft, or being in a room with an ill person for a prolonged period of time without PPE] with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from an infected region, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your close contact and their recent travel. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

8. Government Action

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