Delta Air Lines CEO: New hires must be vaccinated for COVID-19

The air carrier says the new policy takes effect May 17th.

By Euni Han

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Delta's CEO Ed Bastian says new workers will have to be vaccinated for COVID-19, according to an interview with CNN.

"This is an important move to protect our workforce and our customers as our business recovers and demand for air travel continues to rise," A Delta spokeswoman said.

The exception for the new policy is employees who have strong religious beliefs or medical conditions that pose serious adverse risks from the vaccine. Employers' lawyers say that new hires who qualify for an accommodation can be exempt.

Bastian also says the new rule won't apply to current employees. "I'm not going to mandate and force people if they have some specific reason why they don't want to get vaccinated ... if there's some sort of philosophical issue they have."

Bastian says he strongly encourages workers to get the vaccine and so far more than 60% of the airline's 75,000 employees have done so. He said that he expects that number to reach 75-80%.

The Atlanta-based airline has set up a vaccination center near the airport.

Companies are legally allowed to require that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 since the The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's announcement last December. The EEOC's two caveats for workers are religion and disability.

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