As the reports of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread throughout the United States it is important to remain informed about the situation and take appropriate precautionary measures. We are saddened to hear that there have now been several confirmed deaths in the U.S. from the virus. Despite these cases, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the overall number of confirmed cases and risk of contracted the virus remain low.
Keep Up-To-Date With Reliable Resources
You can find the most up-to-date, pertinent information about COVID-19 and its impact on Flight Attendants on the Coronavirus Outbreak page of the AFA International website. The page contains the latest news on the outbreak, resources for Flight Attendants to guard against the spread of infection, and links to additional governmental resources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC.
Guidance from the CDC continues to recommend the following actions as being the best preventive measures to avoid exposure:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (including PA handsets and IMDs) using sanitizing wipes.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Advocating for Flight Attendant Protections
AFA Alaska representatives have been engaging with management daily to advocate for protective measures and policy/procedure changes to protect our Flight Attendants in the wake of the outbreak. As of today, AFA Alaska has made the following requests of management:
- Any individual who chooses to protect themselves by wearing mask or gloves should be permitted to do so at any time.
- Eliminate water walks until we have equipment or product (individual water bottles) which allow it to be delivered in a sanitary manner.
- Provide passengers with individually wrapped hand sanitizing wipes approved for use on our aircraft surfaces and on human skin.
- Provide an announcement about changes to service made to provide a safer announcement to the passenger.
- Work on getting N95 masks of all adult sizes added to UPKs and provide adequate training for their use when dealing with a passenger suspected of having a communicable disease.
- Review aircraft cleaning guidelines and provide audit information by showing adherence levels. Provide better means for crew to submit aircraft cleaning feedback for flights
- Enhanced cleaning procedures for aircraft which carried a passenger with known or suspected contagion.
- Develop training on safe food and beverage handling, assessing passengers for COVID-19, and onboard response to suspect or identified case.
- Discontinue hot towels in F/C and replace with individually wrapped hand sanitizing wipes.
- Discontinue onboard sorting of used service items
- Discontinue placing contaminated items in the same cart as unused service items.
- Add disposable temperature gauges to aircraft equipment.
- Change to disposable cups in First Class.
- Make UPKs and hand sanitizer required, no-go items on the aircraft
- Reduce MELs on lavatory water systems.
- Make surgical masks available to passengers and crew so that those who show symptoms of infection may wear masks and reduce the risk of spreading disease. Take steps to ensure adequate supplies now.
- Provide accommodations for those who have or live with those who have compromised immune systems or are pregnant.
- Provide support for infected or quarantined employees.
- Provide support for employees who are forced to stay at home to care for an infected or quarantined family member.
- Provide support for employees who are forced to stay at home to care for a child due to extended cancellation of classes.
Management has responded and made procedural and policy changes to many of the requests made by AFA, but there are still many items that have not yet been satisfactorily addressed. A full list of actions that are being taken by management are listed in an article on Alaska’s World (AAG sign-on required). Management also released a required bulletin (bulletin #2020-0010, Special Edition Bulletin Bundle-March 2, 2020) with additional details on how these changes are to be implemented.
Additionally, AFA International released additional guidance today entitled Immediate Operational Actions to Stop Spread of COVID-19. Many of the points in this guidance were included in AFA Alaska’s original request to management. AFA Alaska representatives have called for a special meeting with management as soon as possible to address items from the original AFA request that management has not already provided a satisfactory response to as well as new items contained in the additional guidance from AFA International.
Daily Conversations with Management Ongoing
While we applaud management for taking meaningful steps to reduce risks, we simultaneously call upon them to continue taking necessary action to protect Flight Attendants and passengers alike. Regular conference calls between leaders from all Alaska and Horizon union groups and management from Inflight, Safety, and Labor Relations have been scheduled for the foreseeable future and will continue as long as outbreak remains a potential threat. AFA representatives will persist in continuing to address concerns with management during these calls and other venues to address the issues important to Flight Attendants.