Just a few days before the Christmas holiday travel rush, the CEO of Southwest Airlines said in testimony to a United State Senate panel committee, “masks (on planes) don’t add much, if anything” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Kelly’s sentiments were echoed by another leader in the air travel industry. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said, “I concur,” in reference to Kelly’s comments.
Kelly’s statement was described as irresponsible by former Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, who was a part of the Trump Administration. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) called the comments “immoral.” Of course, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, had much to say about the testimony on December 15, 2021.
Fauci called the ending of a mandate to wear masks on a plane “not something we should even be considering.” Fauci was asked to weigh in while appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday; host Jonathan Karl asked Fauci questions regarding air travel mandates.
Fauci added, “We want to make sure people keep their masks on.” He further commented that the American public nor the federal government should even be considering backing down on mandates that require the wearing of a mask for domestic air travel.
Fauci then segued into the inference that airlines should consider mandating a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel. “A vaccine requirement for a person getting on a plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated.”
These comments come as a federal court overturned decisions by lower courts that would suspend the vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees. The American people seem split on the idea of a vaccine mandate. States including Mississippi, Montana, Indiana, and Idaho have all joined in the initial lawsuit that would bar a federal mandate on vaccines.
Surprisingly, some of these individuals against a vaccine mandate are vaccinated themselves. Some Congressional leaders have come out against a mandate, while admitting that they are fully vaccinated.
Fauci seemed to backtrack as he concluded his remarks on the airline CEOs’ testimony: ” . . .with regard to the spread . . . if you look at wearing a mask and the filtration planes, things are reasonably safe.” It is the filtration systems on planes which the American Airlines and Southwest Airlines CEOs pointed to as prevention methods for the spread of COVID-19.
Numerous peer-reviewed studies show that airlines implementing a social distancing policy on planes with a middle aisle could also help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus on planes.
On December 19, Fauci said that he doesn’t believe there will ever be a point in time where masks on an airplane are no longer necessary.
Masks and mask shaming have been a point of contention for airline passengers throughout the course of the year. In October, a man on a flight to Provo, Utah refused to wear a mask and a fight ensued. Just last week, passengers on a Delta flight from LA to Memphis fought over one party’s refusal to wear a mask. Airline personnel have expressed concern over having to break up these fights.
Would a vaccine mandate for travel solve these issues? The answer remains to be seen.