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United Airlines launches effort to improve COVID-19 contact-tracing

The airline will start asking passengers on international and domestic flights to provide key contact info to assist the CDC's coronavirus contact tracing efforts.

WASHINGTON — United Airlines announced Wednesday it will begin asking domestic and international passengers to provide contact information to help the Center's for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. 

United's announcement comes after Delta announced a similar plan earlier this month for international travelers returning to the U.S. 

“Contact tracing is a fundamental component of the nation’s public health response strategy for controlling the spread of communicable diseases of public health concern,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement accompanying United's announcement. “Collection of contact information from air travelers will greatly improve the timeliness and completeness of information for COVID-19 public health follow-up and contact tracing.”

United plans to gradually roll out the program starting this week for international arrivals. The company said it will add in domestic flights and international departures "in the weeks ahead." 

Participation in the contact-tracing push is voluntary. During the check-in process, United customers will be asked to voluntarily opt-in and provide contact information including an email address, phone numbers and the address of where they'll be once they reach their destination. The company said those details were previously difficult for the CDC to obtain in real-time.

Credit: United
United Airlines provided this image of the contact tracing form it will ask all international and domestic travelers to fill out moving forward.

As coronavirus cases increase across the United States, airline travel continues to slump. 

American Airlines and United Airlines furloughed a combined 32,000 workers in October. While Delta Air Lines has managed to avoid furloughs, it's now asking more employees to take unpaid leaves of absence.

Southwest Airlines also has avoided furloughs, but earlier this month the Dallas-based carrier warned nearly 7,000 workers that they could lose their jobs if unions don't accept pay cuts.

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