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US: Fact check: Southwest will comply with federal vaccine mandate, but employees won't be fired over it

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The claim: Southwest Airlines’ CEO said the company won’t follow the federal vaccine mandate and won’t fire anyone over it

Travelers wait to check-in at the Southwest Airlines ticketing counter at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Oct. 11, 2021. © Kevin Dietsch, Getty Images Travelers wait to check-in at the Southwest Airlines ticketing counter at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Oct. 11, 2021.

After an operational meltdown that led to the cancellation of more than 2,000 Southwest flights, false claims that the delays stemmed from COVID-19 vaccine mandate protests spread online.

But one post on social media claims the company’s stance is the opposite.

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“SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CEO HAS ANNOUNCED HE WILL NOT BE FOLLOWING BIDENS MANDATE AND WILL NOT BE FIRING ANYONE #FlySouthwest,” an Oct. 13 Facebook post reads.

The post was shared more than 200 times in 3 days.

Some of the post’s details are off. While it’s true Southwest Airlines’ CEO said he doesn’t support corporate mandates and won’t be firing anyone over one, the company has said it will comply with the Biden administration’s mandate, in defiance of the anti-mandate rule in place in Texas, where the company is headquartered.

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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who posted the claim for comment.

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Southwest will mandate vaccines for its employees

Southwest Airlines announced Oct. 4 that all its employees must be vaccinated, or approved for an accommodation, by Dec. 8

“Southwest Airlines must join our industry peers in complying with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination directive,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in the statement. “I encourage all Southwest Employees to meet the federal directive, as quickly as possible, since we value every individual and want to ensure job security for all.”

While the company is based in Texas, where the state’s Republican governor has issued an  anti-mandate rule, the airline told the Austin-American Statesman that the Democratic president’s executive order “supersedes any state mandate or law.” He said the company is required to adhere to it “to remain compliant as a federal contractor.”

More: Southwest president says nothing nefarious behind flight cancellations, airline eyes holiday travel cuts

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Despite the company’s compliance, Kelly told CNBC on Oct. 12 that he has “never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate.”

The Southwest CEO also told Good Morning America that the disruptions Southwest flyers faced had nothing to do with the airline’s vaccine mandate.

Fact check: Video on World Health Organization's VigiAccess tool lacks context

“We’re doing our best to comply,” Kelly told GMA on Oct. 12. “We’re not going to fire any employees over this. We’re urging all of our employees to get vaccinated. If they can’t get vaccinated, we’re urging them to seek an accommodation.”

Southwest Airlines did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Our rating: Partly false

We rate the claim that Southwest Airlines’ CEO said the company won’t follow the federal vaccine mandate and won’t fire anyone over it as PARTLY FALSE. It's true Southwest Airlines’ CEO said he doesn’t support corporate mandates and won’t be firing anyone over one, but the company has said it will comply with the Biden administration’s mandate.

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, Oct. 11, Southwest Airlines flight woes continue: 1,000 Sunday cancellations … and counting
  • Southwest, Oct. 4, Southwest Airlines Complying with Directive for Federal Contractors by Requiring All Employees to Become Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19
  • Austin American-Statesman, Oct. 13, Southwest, American among Texas businesses defying Abbott to comply with federal vaccine mandate
  • CNBC, Oct. 12, Southwest CEO: When an airline falls behind, it’s hard to catch up
  • Good Morning America, Oct. 12, Southwest CEO speaks out after canceled flights l GMA

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FDA says Pfizer vaccine appears to work in young kids; study shows lower mortality rates for vaccinated people: Live COVID updates

  FDA says Pfizer vaccine appears to work in young kids; study shows lower mortality rates for vaccinated people: Live COVID updates Pfizer’s COVID vaccine appears highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections in young kids and caused no unexpected safety issues, feds say.The Food and Drug Administration posted its analysis of Pfizer’s data ahead of a public meeting next week to debate whether the shots are ready for the nation’s roughly 28 million children ages 5 to 11. The agency will ask a panel of outside vaccine experts to vote on that question and is expected to authorize the vaccine for young children as early as next week.

Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Southwest will comply with federal vaccine mandate, but employees won't be fired over it

Fact check: Delta on track to comply with federal vaccine mandate, CEO says .
Delta Air Lines did not "ditch" the federal vaccine mandate. The company is aiming to comply with the mandate and is incentivizing vaccination."Delta airlines (sic) have announced they are ditching the vaccine mandates for employees," reads a screengrab of a tweet shared on Instagram Oct. 17.

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