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Southwest CEO tests positive for COVID-19 after Senate hearing - airline

Stock Markets Dec 17, 2021 09:35PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2021 Chip Somodevilla/Pool via REUTERS
 
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly tested positive for COVID-19 after appearing at a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday, the airline confirmed on Friday.

Kelly appeared at the Senate Commerce hearing with the CEOs of United Airlines and American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) as well as a senior Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) executive and the head of a flight attendants union. Kelly drew attention at the hearing for questioning the health benefits of masks on airplanes.

Delta chief of operations John Laughter, United CEO Scott Kirby (NYSE:KEX) and American Airlines Doug Parker have all tested negative, the airlines said.

Southwest said that although he tested negative multiple times prior to the hearing, "Kelly tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home, experiencing mild symptoms, and taking a PCR test."

The airline said Kelly, who is fully vaccinated and received a booster, "is doing well and currently resting at home." It added his "symptoms continue to be mild, and each day he is moving closer to a full recovery."

Kelly is set to step down next year as chief executive.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, also tested negative, the union said late Friday. She said in a statement earlier Kelly advised her he tested positive "just as I was returning to work after getting the booster shot. I am following CDC protocols and will test several times within the 5-7 day recommended period, and before traveling with my family for the holidays."

Southwest confirmed Kelly's positive test after Reuters learned of it through other officials. Kelly tested positive Thursday and told other airlines of the positive test the same day, the officials said.

Kelly did not wear a mask during the hearing and questioned the health benefit of masks on airplanes.

"I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much if anything in the air cabin environment -- it's very safe, very high quality compared to any other indoor setting," Kelly said.

Late Friday, Southwest released an email Kelly sent to employees that sought to clarify his comments, saying the airline supports the current federal mask mandate at airports and on airplanes: "There is no effort underway to change it before it expires ... The majority of our Employees and Customers have felt it has been an important layer of protection, and I certainly agree with that."

Earlier this month, the Biden administration extended the federal mandate on masks on airplanes and other transit modes through March 18.

Senate Commerce chair Maria Cantwell said Kelly's COVID-19 diagnosis "underscores the importance of everyone getting vaccinated and following health and safety protocol." Cantwell plans to get a COVID-19 test on Saturday, her office said.

Southwest CEO tests positive for COVID-19 after Senate hearing - airline
 

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Comments (6)
David CA
ILoveQE Dec 18, 2021 8:12AM ET
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Now...isn't that all too convenient...he gets the CCP virus after he tells the Insider Traders (Congress) that masks don't work.
Pilot TwoFive
Pilot TwoFive Dec 17, 2021 10:21PM ET
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The mask is a political joke and we all know it.  Reuters, being the voice for the left, is pandering.  As usual.
Dec 17, 2021 10:10PM ET
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And what health and safety protocol, Senator Cantwell? It changes every other week. Wear a mask, don't wear mask, put a mask on your toddler, okay maybe that was going too far, not necessary to mask toddlers, put your mask back on when you finish your meal at a restaurant. What, huh? Put the mask back on before or after I wash my hands because it's safe to eat a meal in a public restaurant but not safe to remain unmasked while not eating?
Andreas Goodwin Smith
Andreas Goodwin Smith Dec 17, 2021 10:01PM ET
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So, mask, social distancing and the mandated vaccine doesn't work. And the great majority of positive cases results in symptoms that are less than a hangover.Just why are we destroying the future generations of young children?Or have we already done that by giving them a 30 TRILLION DOLLAR DEATH SENTENCE...Changes will be coming, King George...
Hardeep Chudhary
Hardeep Chudhary Dec 17, 2021 10:01PM ET
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ha ha haSanta coming
Dec 17, 2021 9:59PM ET
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The reported comments are taken out of context. In his testimony, Kelly explained the air filtering systems built into planes. Remember when air travel was permissible before the availability of vaccines? Same as then because of the air filtering systems.
pcg upstate
pcg upstate Dec 17, 2021 7:34PM ET
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big deal, he tested positive, minor symptoms
 
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