The CEO of a serious airline steered throughout a congressional listening to this week that face masks present little worth on planes—a declare that was shortly amplified on-line.
Citing high-quality filtration techniques aboard planes, Southwest Airways CEO Gary Kelly acknowledged that “masks do not add a lot, if something, within the air cabin setting.”
However specialists strongly disagree. Listed here are the details.
CLAIM: Masks-wearing on planes is pointless as a result of superior air filtration techniques sufficiently cut back the chance of COVID-19 transmission.
THE FACTS: Whereas it is true that the widespread air filtration and distribution techniques utilized in trendy plane are extremely efficient at decreasing the chance of COVID-19 transmission amongst passengers, masks add one other layer of safety for air vacationers, specialists instructed The Related Press.
Kelly’s feedback got here throughout a Wednesday listening to earlier than the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. After returning dwelling from the listening to, Kelly examined optimistic for COVID-19, a Southwest spokesperson confirmed to the AP on Friday.
Kelly made his remark about masks in response to a query from Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican representing Mississippi, who requested Kelly and one other airline CEO in the event that they thought air journey with out masks may ever resume.
Kelly stated that “99.97% of airborne pathogens are captured” by excessive effectivity particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, on airplanes, earlier than suggesting that masks are pointless throughout air journey.
“Yeah, I feel the case may be very sturdy that masks do not add a lot, if something, within the air cabin setting,” Kelly stated. “It’s extremely protected, and really prime quality in comparison with another indoor setting.”
American Airways CEO Doug Parker appeared to agree, saying, “I concur, the plane is the most secure place you could be.” He famous that every one of his firm’s plane have the identical HEPA filters.
The feedback had been shortly picked up by information retailers and blogs, and unfold on social media.
“The CEOs of Southwest and American Airways each stated at present in Senate testimony that masks on planes serve no objective,” stated one tweet shared greater than 3,500 occasions.
Each CEOs clarified their feedback to say they help the present federal coverage requiring masks on flights. On Friday, after returning dwelling from the listening to, Kelly examined optimistic for COVID-19, Southwest spokesperson confirmed to the AP.
Southwest Airways supplied the AP with a message that Kelly despatched to staff by which the CEO apologized for any “confusion” stemming from the listening to, saying Southwest continued to “help the present federal masks mandate at airports and on airplanes.”
Kelly stated the airline adopted a masks requirement aboard its flights in Could 2020, earlier than the federal authorities required it, and that staff and prospects “have felt it has been an necessary layer of safety, and I actually agree with that.” He stated the airline would “proceed to depend on the recommendation of our medical specialists concerning the need of masks.”
Parker later stated on social media he “agreed with my fellow CEOs that being onboard a airplane is confirmed to be a protected and wholesome indoor setting.” However he stated that his assertion on the listening to was unclear and that he supported the federal masks mandate “Full cease.”
Whereas HEPA filtration techniques are extremely efficient at decreasing the transmission of viruses, they don’t utterly eradicate threat aboard flights, in accordance with Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech.
“The problem is that they solely work on the air because it passes by means of the filter,” she stated in an electronic mail. “If you’re sitting close to somebody who’s releasing plenty of viruses into the air, you can find yourself inhaling them earlier than they’ve had an opportunity to move by means of the filtration system.”
Marr stated it takes a couple of minutes for air to utterly move by means of the filtration system. She stated requiring everybody to put on a masks reduces the quantity of virus an contaminated particular person can launch into the air, and helps cut back the quantity of virus somebody carrying a masks may breathe in.
Leonard J. Marcus, director of the Aviation Public Well being Initiative at Harvard College, agreed.
“Sure, the air flow system on airplanes are unimaginable. They’re comparable with what you may discover in an working room,” he stated. However “it’s the a number of layers, it is not one factor alone.”
Marcus stated that masks are notably necessary when individuals are boarding and exiting airplanes or transferring across the plane cabin. Rising COVID-19 instances and the menace posed by the omicron variant additionally make mask-wearing on planes important, he stated.
“Persons are transferring about, individuals are turning to talk to somebody, individuals are generally lifting up their masks to drink,” stated Marcus, whose initiative revealed a report in October that supported a “layered” method to reducing threat. “If everyone seems to be carrying the masks, there’s going to be a lot much less transmission of the illness.”
The Affiliation of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, a union representing some 50,000 flight attendants, has additionally referred to as masks a “key part” of security on flights, noting that not all planes have HEPA filtration techniques.
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FACT FOCUS: Masks assist curb unfold of COVID-19 on planes (2021, December 18)
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