If You’re Going to Fly, Wear a Mask and Stop Expecting Social Distancing

American

If you spend a lot of time on social media, you’ve likely seen an increasing number of travelers griping about their air travel woes. The general complaint is that airlines are not living up to their promises to allow for social distancing on airplanes. To this I say… if you’re flying and you think you can properly social distance, you need to think again. Distancing while traveling is impossible, and I wish airlines would stop legitimizing these complaints with silly plans to keep middle seats open.

The reality is that if you want to fly, you have two choices:

  1. Accept the proximity risks involved with flying and mitigate likelihood of contracting the disease the best you can.
  2. Don’t fly.

The Rise of the Distancing Myth

The seeds of this conflict have been brewing ever since the pandemic began. As we know, the virus seems to be very-efficiently carried through tiny droplets of moisture that a person exhales. Those droplets don’t travel far, so we’ve collectively settled on 6 feet between people as the proper distance to reduce the likelihood of transmission. This makes perfect sense, but it is impossible to carry out if you’re traveling by air.

That reality is why air travel plummeted as fast and as far as it did. Nobody wanted to take chances, and it was an instinctive, fear-based response on top of a scientific truth. It’s that truth that pushed airlines to quickly jump into action to try to do everything they could to assuage concerns. They improved cleaning procedures, changed service flows, and removed touchpoints. This was in addition to the simple eduction process dispelling myths. For example, people just think airplanes recycle air, infecting everyone. In reality, nearly all commercial airplanes have high-grade HEPA filters that efficiently prevent the virus from spreading through ventilation systems.

All of this was good, but then the airlines just had to take it further and shoot themselves in the foot. With airplanes empty, it didn’t seem like a risk to say they’d block middle seats and help to encourage distancing on airplanes. But guess what? More people have started flying again compared to the nadir back in April. That combined with the drastically reduced schedule means that some flights are filling up. And now you see posts like this:

All the airlines have been spouting off about what they’re doing to keep people safe, and that is now backfiring badly. Delta has been out front on this, trying to keep a premium image by saying it will add flights in order to keep loads below 60 percent. JetBlue just doubled down and said it’ll block middles through July 4. There are plenty of other examples, but here’s the problem… This does not in any way enable proper social distancing. You need closer to 10 percent loads if you want to do that.

The Impossible Dream of Proper Distancing

Let’s look at one of the most common airplanes flying, a 737. Imagine a layout with 32 inches of seat pitch. Now imagine someone sitting in a window seat. What does 6 feet of buffer look like?

If you force everyone to sit in a window seat, then you can get 2 people per row. But you’ll still need to skip two rows in either direction to get full buffer, and you’ll have to assume those people will actually stay in their window seats. That means for every seat that’s full, you need 14 empty. That is just not feasible in any way.

I know what you’re thinking. Sure, it’s not perfect, but at least it gives you more space and exposes you to fewer people in a direct line of contact. That is true, but it hardly creates a “safe” environment from a distancing perspective. There is still plenty of exposure to many other people, and that’s only one small part of the total journey. From an airline perspective, there just isn’t a way to justify blocking all those seats if the demand is there to fill them. Travelers just need to accept that they can’t properly distance if flying commercially.

Mitigate With a Mask… ALL of You

That being said, there are precautions that can be taken to mitigate the risk. TSA now lets travelers bring through 12 oz of sanitizer so anyone can douse their surrounding seat/tray table area. Even if people don’t bring it, airlines are all handing out sanitizer in addition to the cleaning they do on their own. Oh, and here’s another tip: It’s best not to kiss strangers with an open mouth while on board.

The most important tip of all, however, is a simple one: Wear a damn mask.

Some people think they’re too good to wear masks, and that results in posts like these:

Wearing masks is required. That is good. But not everyone is complying, and that is shameful. If you’re on an airplane and you don’t have some medical issue that makes it impossible for you to do it, put your damn mask on. Stop being selfish. This isn’t about you. Wearing a mask is about protecting others around you. That means when others do it, you benefit.

If you’re on an airplane with someone not wearing a mask, ask them politely to put one on. Airlines have masks onboard if they don’t have one themselves. If they refuse, I recommend public shaming… but should we really be expecting airlines to police this on the airplane? No.

Airlines should make general announcements and offer the masks that are onboard for those who forgot. But think of someone who won’t wear a mask or takes it off during the flight. Chances are this isn’t someone who forgot; it’s someone who doesn’t believe in science and/or “limiting personal liberty.” That’s a despicable approach considering that wearing a mask has been shown to reduce the chance of transmission. But should flight attendants become enforcers for the greater good? That’s not going to end well for anyone. If the government wants to get involved and fine people who don’t obey, great. But otherwise, this is just a requirement without teeth once everyone is in that metal tube together.

In the end, if you fly, there is no way to properly distance from other travelers, and some jerks will take their masks off or not wear one at all. This is true in all phases of the travel experience. In the end, you simply have to get used to the fact that if you fly, your chance of exposure goes up. I wish airlines would stop trying to make people think they’re going to be able to distance. They’re just adding unnecessary fuel to the proverbial fire.

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137 comments on “If You’re Going to Fly, Wear a Mask and Stop Expecting Social Distancing

  1. Finally! Someone said what I’ve been thinking all along. Social distancing is a good idea but nearly impossible to sustain for another reason: financial implications. Why are people expecting airlines to leave money on the table by not selling seats when there are people wanting to fly?

    1. Corey Sayles,

      Because of the false perception of having it both ways. I want to fly as it is my right, but keep “those other people” away from me. But of course that’s impossible.

  2. Cranky,
    Transparency and honesty are two things that all business should follow. Unfortunately some companies like AA say one thing. do another and then it blows up on them. And when they do provide a remedy (requiring passengers to wear face masks) they state “beginning on May 11”. Why wait? Stupidity. And the attitude of some of the GA’s when asked why their company was not following social distancing “if 150 purchased tickets then 150 people will board” is poor business judgement. I am not asking to fly in a cocoon. But some airlines like Delta explain their policies and cleaning protocols. I would suggest that you publish a chart of which airlines are doing the most and the least to protect their passengers (Delta fogs their planes before each flight, an AA FA announced that they do deep cleaning every night).

  3. Great Post Cranky!

    Masks and mask enforcement right now is an issue nearly everywhere where people need to be in confined spaces. I oversee a transit system in Indiana in a county where the county health department hasn’t issued a mask requirement. The next county over has a mask requirement from the health department but the police have said they won’t enforce it. We’ve gotten a variety of questions from passengers and social service providers about why were not kicking people off our buses for not warning marks but the bottom line is making our bus drivers the enforcers is simply too risky to our (and we don’t have backup rules from the county health department or the police)

    I have a friend who works at Costco and who can’t believe that as a retail worker there now on the front of lines of enforcing Costcos national members must ware masks policies (although my last trip into a store was a Coscto partially since we knew they’d be enforcing mask waring).

    1. Hi SubwayNut,

      According to http://www.trimet.com of Portland, masks just became required. That said, they also note from the CDC if you have a health condition or are disabled in wich putting one on is problematic, , then one not need to do so in order to ride.
      @ Cranky,

      Public shaming does the inverse of it’s intent & those people want you to pay attention to them. They’re looking for a reason to spout their nonsense that this is an attack on personal liberty & you are being controlled by some deep state conspiracy. DO… NOT… ENGAGE… THEM.

      1. For TriMet specifically, it’d be interesting to compare compliance rates from various spots (eg. Clackamas vs. Beaverton, etc.) in the metro area. Maybe just to me. lol.

      2. Some people honestly cant wear a mask while flying. Necessary to fly sometimes, but a drop in oxygen level is a true issue, so be kind and understanding if someone is trying to follow the rules, but may be having a panic attack or something and needs more oxygen than a mask is allowing…

  4. One must remember the 4 ft high seat backs give some protection (barrier) as well as everyone is facing the same direction – not facing each other.  Maybe not perfect, but much better than sitting at a table facing each other with nothing between each person, even though 6 ft apart.

  5. Could airlines get quick FAA approval to place plexiglass barriers above seats, like every grocery store (at least in my home city) has done to protect cashiers? That would significantly reduce the risk of exposure between rows.

    1. Alex – My guess is that “quick” and “FAA” don’t belong in the same sentence. Plexiglass barriers would have crash impacts, I’m sure, so it would probably require more time to make it happen.

      1. Not to mention the weight they’d add to the aircraft. Hope you’re not on a CR2.

        Load agent: “We’re over gross. Deplane ten people.

        FA: You ten folks with the cheap tickets–off you go!

  6. I agree to a large extent with the tone of this article. I think the big challenge for the airlines now is to show that they are taking reasonable steps to protect pax, while at the same time avoiding promising too much and countering some of the fear that has been whipped up.

    Even before COVID-19, people in vulnerable groups and those with weak immune systems were told to avoid travel and crowds. With the exception of those most vulnerable people, passengers are more likely to die travelling to/from the airport than they are from contracting COVID-19 in the airport or on the plane… As with everything in life, there are risks, and we all have to find the balance between avoiding, mitigating, and accepting those risks. Crossing the street is dangerous, but we accept that as a risk of life, while at the same time looking both ways and using crosswalks when possible. Same thing with going out in public these days… Wear a mask and wash/sanitize your hands often, but don’t let it worry you sick.

    I’m flying for Memorial Day weekend, and frankly, contracting COVID-19 is the least of my worries. My biggest worry is that Southwest will cancel my flight, but I’m hoping that there will be enough other pax that that won’t happen.

    I’m still trying to figure out how I will be able to go 6 hours (including time in airports and on the plane) wearing an uncomfortable mask while still staying hydrated, especially as my cough-inducing allergies flare up badly if I don’t get enough water, but we’ll see… Planning to try to find a quiet nook in the terminal far away from other people so that I can pull off the mask briefly and chug a bottle of water.

    1. Kilroy,
      I have flown in the past two weeks. There were plenty of passengers that momentarily removed their mask in-flight in order to clean their glasses, wipe their noses with a Kleenex or drink the airline-provided water and eat the snacks.
      No one is going to whack you for removing your mask.
      Enjoy your flight.

    2. After 9/11, the public didn’t return until they were convinced air travel was “safe.” We are facing that same hurdle again, only for very different reasons.

      The truth is, planes are cleaner than ever-certainly more than I’ve ever seen in ~25 years in the industry. DL is cleaning *every* flight at the same level they used to clean planes staying over night. On top of that, they’re all being fogged. And that doesn’t even touch on things like HEPA filters, providing sanitizer to customers and more.

      Unfortunately, all of that makes for a less dramatic narrative than someone screaming on Twitter that their airline “lied to them.”

      It’s gonna take a LOT of consistent messaging from the airlines to change people’s perceptions. Gimmicks like blocking seats or mandating capacity constraints simply aren’t sustainable.

      1. True Kevin. “It’s gonna take a LOT of consistent messaging from the airlines to change people’s perceptions. Gimmicks like blocking seats or mandating capacity constraints simply aren’t sustainable.”

        Don’t forget the gaslighting that companies including airlines are using to change perceptions or make themselves look altruistic, we’re doing this for you & your safety. I read something on Vox a few weeks ago entitled “Get ready for the gaslighting” & it mentioned all the tricks being employed to get you to open your wallet under the guise of safety.

      1. Thanks, Cranky, but those masks look like a little… Well, let’s just say that I’m not sure if they look more “Hannibal Lecter” or “adventurous romantic activities” to me, but either way they aren’t for me.

    3. Bring a big (1.5 liter) empty bottle with you and fill it up after you clear security. That should get you through the day.

    4. You can remove the mask on the plane to eat and drink. You had just better hope you aren’t near anyone who read this post or aren’t near Cranky who obviously endorses public shaming for mask removal.

  7. First, airlines simply have to do what they say they will do regarding extra space. People didn’t like full flights before including having someone in the middle seat, and the corona virus is just one another reason to complain about it. You are right that the actual capacity of commercial aircraft would have to be about 25% in order to truly social distance. When airlines say they are taking virus precautions and then fill planes, people don’t believe them. Delta appears to have the most strict hard cap on capacity regardless of the number of paid or non-revenue passengers. When NBC put their medical expert (a virus expert) on TV during recovery from covid-19 saying that the only place he thinks he could have caught the virus was on a full flight to MSY, people believe him. He says he wore a mask and gloves but not goggles and, despite any scientific evidence, he is convinced it was the full flight and not any other source that caused him to get covid-19. The media is still powerfully in control of the disease narrative. Airlines can’t operate if they do true social distancing but they have to actually do what they say. Some airlines are and some aren’t.

    Second, if there is a reluctance to wear masks, it might be rooted in the CDC’s original guidance that masks other than medical grade and properly fitted N95 masks don’t stop the corona virus. They haven’t changed that guidance because it is still true. Masks make you feel good that there is some reduction of the spread of respiratory droplets which can be beneficial for a lot of reasons – but actually stopping the corona virus is not one of them. Eastern cultures wear masks out of collective support for the community but that was and will be a major hurdle for America’s individualistic society. The reason why airlines are telling their flight attendants not to get into confrontations with passengers who won’t wear the mask onboard is because flights would never operate or we would have media-crippling stories of brawls as has happened regarding carry-on luggage, use of in-flight toilets, and a million other in-flight stress issues. Society can ask people to wear masks but it will only be those that are willing to comply with requests in a cordial manner that will do so regardless of their personal opinions.

    And, finally, it is time for people to begin to rationally look at their own personal risk of getting this disease and not believing that everyone has a similar disease risk. There has been abundant evidence from the beginning of this disease that certain people including the elderly and those with a group of pre-existing conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and heart, immune and respiratory issues are most at risk of getting the disease. Those are the people that need to stay home until this thing is whipped or their own personal doctor tells them it is ok to be in areas of close confinement. Given that there are now multiple studies that show that the number of people in some areas or the world who have antibodies far exceeds those that had covid-19 symptoms, many people have been exposed to the virus without ill effects.

    Yes, people need to be respectful of the rules and requests of others but people need to make informed decisions about their own risk. Airlines need to either walk the talk or else make it clear they are not motivated by the common good of the community but rather by their own short-term financial interests.

    1. ‘They haven’t changed that guidance because it is still true.’ – not quite. There are now quite comprehensive studies that show the effectiveness of masks (if different materials) in preventing the spread of COVID. The most basic, linen-based masks will reduce transmission by 50% – most of the masks people are buying are actually more effective than this; the problem comes with the false sense of security this affords the wearer, and quite often they are worn incorrectly. You wear a mask to protect other people – so wear one, where you are sharing space with other people (who you don’t live with).

    2. The CDC has *absolutely* changed their guidance on wearing cloth masks. From the CDC’s FAQ (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-faq.html):
      > In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting.
      They say explicitly that masks reduce the spread when physical distance cannot be maintained. There is now ample peer-reviewed and pre-review academic preprints that consistently support that advice. An airplane very clearly fits that bill.

      Any mask (or a bandana over the face and nose) will reduce the number of droplets you spread and will therefore reduce the probability of spreading the disease. And all of the measures are about reducing the probability, not eliminating the probability. If you must go out in public or on an airplane, any mask makes everyone else much safer. Of course, the better the material, the better the fit, and the less time you have the mask off to eat or drink, the better. But it’s not like taking the mask off for a minute in a six hour flight to eat or drink makes wearing the mask for the remaining 5:59 not helpful.

      1. Alex,
        I stand by my original statement…” that masks other than medical grade and properly fitted N95 masks don’t stop the corona virus.”

        The CDC’s statement does not say that cloth masks stop the spread of the corona virus. They don’t even know with certain how the virus spreads. “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.”

        The CDC and no other scientist has proven how this corona virus spreads because they would have to perform tests with live viruses in a real-world situation which is unethical.

        They BELIEVE that this corona virus – like most others spread via respiratory droplets and there have been studies done to prove that cloth does impede the travel of respiratory droplets – but it is false to state that cloth masks will reduce the spread of this corona virus because that has not been tested or proven.

        Not even 3M or manufacturers of high performance medical equipment can make a statement such as that “this product stops the transmission of X virus” because that has not and cannot be tested. They can test the size of particles that can get through their equipment and draw the conclusion that the corona virus is too large to pass through the filters, but they cannot prove that – and they have not said so.

        The CDC has NOT said that cloth masks will stop the spread of the corona virus because they cannot make that statement.

        Further, it is well known that the vast majority of Americans will not fit or wear their own masks properly which is completely opposite to what happens in a surgical quality medical setting where personnel are highly trained and have access to properly fitted and situation-appropriate equipment.

        The wearing of homemade or non-surgical quality face masks MIGHT POSSIBLY, maybe even LIKELY, reduce the spread not just of the corona virus but also dozens of other respiratory pathogens that are consistently floating through the air – but which Americans have never been told to wear a face mask for.

        And let’s not forget that the CDC said for weeks that this corona virus could be transmitted on inanimate surfaces as well as via hands. A whole host of responses resulted including aggressively wiping down surfaces and the wholesale shortage of surface disinfectants in the US.
        Just yesterday, the CDC said that surface transmission is not near as likely as first believed. Their most recent virus says “From touching surfaces or objects. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.”

        I stand by my statement that people should wear a mask right now out of respect to the authorities that have provided the guidance and in respect to the people around you but no one should bet their life on the performance of a mask or the compliance of other people to prevent disease transmission.

        The best strategy to eliminate disease transmission is to quarantine those that are known carriers – which is related to aggressive testing.
        The best strategy for minimizing illness from the disease is for those most vulnerable to minimize their contact w/ people whose virus status is unknown.

        1. You’re using words like “stop” and “proven”. That’s a completely unnecessary standard given the very low risks of wearing a mask. The aim is to reduce the risk of transmission. There are good reasons to believe that it does based both on epidemiological experience and laboratory studies that masks help. And there is very little risk of wearing a mask.

          You’re right that no one should bet their life on a mask. But the goal, I think, is to get the pandemic under control to a point where it is not growing. That involves combining measures that reduce the probability of transmission, choosing measures that achieve that goal while minimizing risk and inconvenience; the evidence pretty strongly suggests that masks help, and it is very clear to me that masks carry little risk and little inconvenience (in the grand scheme of things).

          1. @Alex Hill

            The only study of ANY type of cloth masks that I can find one that had only 21 participants (NOT a significant sample size) in a lab (NOT a real world environment).

            That is why I cited the study in my earlier post that stated that there is NO evidence that masks are effective against Covid-19.

            1. Here are four studies from April and May which argue that masks help, per Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo), all from arxiv.org (not using direct links as there appears to be a limit to how many can be included in a post here):

              arXiv:2004.13553 arXiv:2004.07391 arXiv:2004.03251 arXiv:2005.03651

              As I’ve said in several places, there’s a cost-benefit analysis. I’ve seen no evidence that there is any significant cost to widespread mask use. There is significant at-least-suggestive evidence that widespread mask use (either cloth or surgical) could at least help and possibly help a lot. Seems to me like there are no less-invasive mitigation strategies (in conjunction with physical distancing when possible) with such potential to be helpful.

            2. Alex- Shouldn’t be a limit on number of links. If usually just sends to me to approve if there are too many so we avoid spam. But you can email them to cf@crankyflier.com if you want as well and I’ll add.

          2. The best way to have gotten the virus under control was to prevent its spread in long-term senior facilities; deaths there account for one-third or more of US deaths and well more than half in some states. The death rate in senior facilities is absolutely tragic but those residents are not airline customers.

            There is no data yet but I suspect that much of the reason for the rapid spread in NYC is because of multi-generational living arrangements in small homes – just as was the case in Italy and Spain.

            There just isn’t any evidence that there is widespread deaths among the general population; yes, there has been widespread spreading of the virus including in meat packing plants – but it goes to the question someone else noted regarding what the purpose of the lockdown and these masks are for. Are we trying to prevent virus transmission which has happened since the beginning of time or are we trying to prevent an overload of the health care system, which has happened in the US largely only in the NYC metro and in long term care facilities.

            again, the US has never asked its people in modern times to wear masks. It is absolutely valid to ask what is different this time. There is less and less evidence that covid-19 is any more deadly than other viruses in the healthy, mobile population.

            1. “There is less and less evidence that covid-19 is any more deadly than other viruses in the healthy, mobile population.”

              To amplify what Tim said about the virus in a healthy population

              Commodities

              “Table 4 shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For 7% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.5 additional conditions or causes per death”. (source: CDC National Center for Health Statistics)

              The way I am interpreting this is that only 7% of the covid deaths in the US had no known underlying comorbidity.

              Assuming that the data are correct, that means only (92,250 deaths X .07 ) 6,457 deaths nationwide were of people with no underlying conditions.

              Or said a different way, 93% of all deaths from covid-19 had at least one or more additional conditions that could cause your death.

              In Illinois, the health director stated that even if you had a proven other cause of death but also had covid-19, you would be counted as a covid-19

  8. Phil LeBeau of CNBC showed a seat spacing graphic similar to the one you have above following the viral pictures of the “packed” American flight. He also compared that graphic to one showing a 67% load factor after the letter from Rep. Peter DeFazio was made public. The safety guidelines regarding the coronavirus are the same as those for colds or flu, which are also caused by viruses. This information has been known for a long time. My mother, a nurse, taught them to me when I was a kid. A viral infection normally doesn’t manifest symptoms right away, and can be spread even when infected people aren’t sick. That’s why taking temperatures and other screening methods aren’t completely effective. The only way to “safely social distance” oneself from a viral infection in a transportation vehicle is to drive alone in one’s personal car. Businesses such as airlines, restaurants, movie theaters, cruise lines, amusement parks, and sports teams, which make their money operating in closely spaced venues are hurting. There’s no way to completely stop the spread of viruses. But a little common sense can help reduce it.

  9. Cranky:

    If you are going to try and shame people about wearing masks on planes, at least have some medical evidence to back your statements up.

    From The BMJ (The BMJ is one of the world’s most cited general medical journals) study on the effectiveness of cloth masks.

    “Commenting on these findings, Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said, “There is only very limited evidence of the benefits of wearing face masks by the general public, no evidence that wearing them in crowded places helps at all, and no evidence at all yet related to covid-19” (source BMJ 2020;369:m1422)

    As a frequent traveler, I (and others) believe that the TSA is just “security theater” (the illusion of being more secure).

    Wearing a mask on a flight when there is NO evidence that it does any good is just pandemic theater!

    1. You’re citing an opinion piece (editorial), not an original study. There is evidence for benefit, and there is benefit for harm. How many people are you still shaking hands with? Cuddling? None of those are completely effective measures, but ceasing to do so reduces your chances of transmission. Why not do the decent thing, and consider other people?

      ps The BMJ publishes its fair share of shite, btw.

      1. @ Bobber

        Do you have any original (randomized with a significant sample size and correcting for real world conditions) studies that prove the effectiveness of masks?

        If you do, you must have a better search algorithm than Google…. because I have NOT found any!

        Even the CDC website does not cite any studies on the efficacy of masks on their recommendations page.

        Think about masks and the covid virus this way…. If you replace a screen in the window of your house with a chain link fence, would it keep the bugs and flies out?

        If you believe in “Pandemic Theater” I have no problem with that. Just don’t try and force your views on other people!

        1. ‘Just don’t try and force your views on other people!’

          Pot. Kettle. Black.

          Try PubMed, rather than Google. Also, trying meeting people affected by COVID. People who treat COVID patients. People who have lost family members to COVID. It might give you a slightly different perspective on how serious us, the general public, should be taking this crisis.

          1. I had it. My wife is a scientist and has read every PubMed article she thinks exists on the subject is not convinced of the benefits of cloth masks worn by the general population based on her reading of the published scientific articles. Does that check enough boxes for someone to comment without actually wishing harm on others?

          2. @Bobber

            I did go to PubMed.gov and searched for “efficacy of cloth masks”.

            Of the top 5 hits based on relevancy, two of them were from the BMJ which you say ” publishes its fair share of shite, btw.”

            So let’s see if I got this right… your own source cites the source that I used and that you claim is just “shite” … Got it!

            Of the rest of the studies, I did NOT find any study that was “randomized with a significant sample size and correcting for real world conditions” especially in aircraft (since this is an aviation blog).

            If there is one… please point it out.

            As I mentioned… I have no problem with you buying into “Pandemic Theater” , but lacking any studies that account for all of the variables, I do believe it should be based on personal choice and not arbitrary “recommendations”

            1. Putting aside the searching for studies, I find it amusing that you imply both TSA checks and mask wearing are theatrical only but then only argue for not complying with the mask theatrics. Maybe next time refuse the TSA theatrics and see how far that will gets you.

          3. From PubMed

            To mask or not to mask

            Abstract

            Face mask use by the general public for limiting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is controversial, though increasingly recommended, and the potential of this intervention is not well understood. We develop a compartmental model for assessing the community-wide impact of mask use by the general, asymptomatic public, a portion of which may be asymptomatically infectious. Model simulations, using data relevant to COVID-19 dynamics in the US states of New York and Washington, suggest that broad adoption of even relatively ineffective face masks may meaningfully reduce community transmission of COVID-19 and decrease peak hospitalizations and deaths. Moreover, mask use decreases the effective transmission rate in nearly linear proportion to the product of mask effectiveness (as a fraction of potentially infectious contacts blocked) and coverage rate (as a fraction of the general population), while the impact on epidemiologic outcomes (death, hospitalizations) is highly nonlinear, indicating masks could synergize with other non-pharmaceutical measures. Notably, masks are found to be useful with respect to both preventing illness in healthy persons and preventing asymptomatic transmission. Hypothetical mask adoption scenarios, for Washington and New York state, suggest that immediate near universal (80%) adoption of moderately (50%) effective masks could prevent on the order of 17-45% of projected deaths over two months in New York, while decreasing the peak daily death rate by 34-58%, absent other changes in epidemic dynamics. Even very weak masks (20% effective) can still be useful if the underlying transmission rate is relatively low or decreasing: In Washington, where baseline transmission is much less intense, 80% adoption of such masks could reduce mortality by 24-65% (and peak deaths 15-69%), compared to 2-9% mortality reduction in New York (peak death reduction 9-18%). Our results suggest use of face masks by the general public is potentially of high value in curtailing community transmission and the burden of the pandemic. The community-wide benefits are likely to be greatest when face masks are used in conjunction with other non-pharmaceutical practices (such as social-distancing), and when adoption is nearly universal (nation-wide) and compliance is high.

            Cranky,

            If this is too long, edit as necessary & post the link. Thanks.

    2. There is a whole lot of evidence that wearing a mask protects those around you. It’s not for you, it’s for others.

      1. John G

        Can you cite a study that proves what you are saying?

        I have checked the CDC, PubMed and BMJ websites and there are no studies that prove your statement.

        Since you need to take off your mask when you eat and drink aboard the flight, what happens then??

        I guess you could assume that Covid-19 cannot be spread while you are eating or drinking something. :-)

    3. The very editorial you cite says “Although good quality evidence is lacking, some data suggest that cloth masks may be only marginally (15%) less effective than surgical masks in blocking emission of particles, and fivefold more effective than not wearing masks.”, citing this 2013 peer-reviewed study for an influenza pandemic: https://doi.org/10.1017/dmp.2013.43

      So wearing homemade masks is five times better than not wearing any mask, says the editorial you claim says wearing a mask is “pandemic theater”.

      It may be true that there has not yet been time for a true randomized controlled study of the efficacy of masks specifically for COVID-19. But it is clear that COVID-19 spreads primarily through large droplets and that even linen masks substantially reduce the spread of large droplets. It is also very clear from epidemiological modelling that even a 60% reduction in the transmission of the virus could change this from a growing (R > 1) pandemic to an under control (if still nasty) virus with R < 1 (see, eg, this extended and very informative article by Swiss epidemiologist Marcel Salathé: https://ncase.me/covid-19/). And the risks of wearing a homemade mask are very small, especially if we (with the aid of companies, and airlines are important here) make it socially normal to wear a mask.

  10. For Delta/Southwest, another bonus of capacity controls is it provides justification for them to fly more than they otherwise would. I say “bonus” because their labor costs are minimized due to CARES, their fuel costs are minimized due to cheap oil…and if they operate a better schedule than United they’ll take market share that UA will have to try to get back later (saying UA in particular because they’re largely taking an opposite tack here).

  11. I love the “non-bullying” millennial that continue to bully everyone and thing on social media. What IDIOTS they are (yes I am going to bully them because stupid people deserve it). GROW THE F @#$ UP and learn to be an adult. Do what you need to do to protect yourself and stop waiting for the government or Mommy and Daddy to bail out your butt.

    If they actually knew the facts and not what their other IDIOT friends on social media said, they would know that the airlines are cleaning the planes, working to do their best to social distance (no one, not even DL is guaranteeing it; JetBlue can do it because no one is flying them to begin with) and wear a mask. Also, why are they flying??? I had to, to visit a dying Mother in hospice care and help my 95 yo father, most of these people look like they are going on vacation!

    Tired of these social media know it alls. Again, crack a book and learn something before you post and make your self look dumber than you already are!

    Sorry guys. . .never go off like this, but finally this is reach a breaking point!

    1. Just out of curiosity, what facts do you think they need to know? And if you could, would you mind posting a link to a scientific (peer reviewed) source to back up those facts?

    2. Which millennial are you referring to? Every single millennial I know is for masks, strict quarantine and science. Sure there are plenty of idiots partying on the beaches, just as there are plenty of “grown up” idiots protesting, attending Trump rallies without masks, and older folks in nursing homes still arguing that it’s a hoax because Fox told them it was back in February.

  12. I agree with this article almost completely. But I disagree that airlines shouldn’t/can’t enforce a mask requirement. Airlines enforce a bunch of stuff already, not all of which is government-mandated. If they can enforce “put your laptop away”, “no smoking”, “buckle your seatbelt”, “use the lav in your cabin of service” and so on, they can enforce masks, too.

    1. @grichard
      All of the rules you cite except for wearing a mask are based on actual proven engineering and experience from failure. The US airline industry is the product of years of accidents, analysis, and corrections. There are lives that have been lost because of non-compliance with the rules you cite but not for failure to wear a paper or cloth mask.

      The US government has a proven process of rule-making which requires that data be presented showing the effectiveness of the rule before it becomes law. Mask-wearing does not clear that hurdle precisely because there is not scientific evidence that wearing the type of mask that most Americans have access to can stop this or most contagious diseases.

      Mask-wearing is a sign of respect to the people around you including to the airline and its personnel.

      And if your life depends on someone else taking a step which isn’t scientifically proven to do anything to stop this disease, then you probably should not be in public at all.

      1. Making rules involves a cost-benefit analysis.

        What is the risk of wearing a mask when out in public (including on airplanes) except when you have a specific reason to take it off (like eating or drinking)? I can’t think of any real risks for most people. (There are some people with legitimate medical needs not to wear a mask, but far less than 20% of the population, and masks help a lot even if we “only” get 80% compliance.)

        What is the potential benefit? Best case: significant (>80% or so) compliance with wearing masks that reduce the transmission probability even by 20 to 60% could easily be part of a mix of measures that allow us to return to fairly normal life but with the virus contained.

        This isn’t taking hydroxychloroquine or putting an A320 engine on a 737 because it’s the one maintenance had available at the moment or convicting someone of murder. We don’t need a full-on randomized controlled trial to evaluate the risks of wearing a cloth mask and demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that masks will solve all our problems (they won’t). The preponderance of evidence suggests that masks help at least some. So why not wear them when out in public and unable to maintain physical distance?

    2. No they cant as per CDC directive. If one has a health condition or if someone has a disability that would make waring a mask problematic, then one not need to be warn. I just discovered that yesterday & was surprised.

    3. grichard – As far as I know, those are government rules. I tried going into too much detail in my post, but masks should be enforced by gate agents upon boarding. But what happens if someone takes a mask off in the air? Diverting isn’t going to do anything. People will have already been exposed if that person is sick. You can’t expect a flight attendant to physically force a mask on someone. The only time there’s really a good way to enforce is on the ground before the flight. If the government wants to make it a $25,000 fine for not wearing a mask, then there are teeth to back it up.

      1. Diverting a flight is VERY expensive both in terms of money and public relations. Suppose someone wore a mask but took it off after experiencing difficulty breathing. And suppose the flight diverted to offload that passenger. Whatever airline that would do that would be subject to a very expensive lawsuit because any passenger offloaded or banned from flying after removing mask due to difficulties breathing would have grounds to sue under the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act. Furthermore if a passenger was to claim medical reasons for not wearing mask any questioning why would violate the medical privacy of that passenger per HIPAA.

      2. Cranky

        Please see the comments made by myself, Eric Morris and Tim Dunn elsewhere in the comments section.

        So… you want the gate agent to enforce using masks and a flyer to be fined for not wearing one even though there are no significant real world studies showing the efficacy of them?

        You whole thought process on the efficacy of masks in aircraft breaks down as soon as a passenger takes their mask off to eat, drink, or clean their fogged up glasses.

        But I guess you COULD fine then $25,000 for doing that.

        1. It is also worth noting that US airlines are governed by federal rules. It is not a federal law to wear a mask and is not likely to become one. Some states and localities require – by force of law – that masks must be worn which includes the terminals over which they have jurisdiction.

          Mask wearing is common in E. Asia because it is cultural. There is abundant evidence that Europeans are ditching the masks during the recovery of their economies and lifestyles whenever they can.

          It is doubtful that mask wearing will persist in the US for this or any other respiratory illness until the fatality rate is so high and so widespread across all demographics that the risk of everyone dropping dead itself, not what someone else says, forces compliance.

          And if that happens, this blog and the rest of civilization is finished.

          1. @Alex B.

            Please see comments made by myself, Eric Morris and Tin Dunn elsewhere in the comments sections.

            There is NOT “lots of evidence it helps”. There have been no statistically significant real word test of cloth masks.

            So why should we wear a mask as a placebo?

    4. Yup. Although of course put your laptop away/keep you cell phone in airplane mode/buckle your seatbelt are only lightly enforced in practice. And “use the lav in your cabin of service” has nothing to do with safety except to the very limited extent that there’s a risk in people congregating near the locked cockpit door and keeping the numbers down at the forward lav is useful.

      But that said, I suspect compliance with wearing masks would be a lot higher if flight attendants reminded passengers just like they do when they see unbuckled passengers, and 80% compliance with mask wearing makes the plane far safer than it would be at 20-50%.

      1. Using the lav in your cabin is related to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. That event would have turned out differently if crew immediately knew that someone crossing the cabin divider was up to no good.

        On the last flight I took within the last two weeks, there was 100% compliance for mask wearing during all phases of the flight and boarding other than to eat, drink, and wipe glasses and noses/mouths.
        The flight attendants did ask people as part of their routine PAs to comply. There was no confrontation.
        The load factor was about 20%. The distribution of passengers in coach easily complied with 6 ft. social distancing guidelines with or without masks.

        oh, and the aircraft had HEPA filters and the fans were operating the entire flight, including during boarding and deplaning.

  13. Who is going to enforce it when some clown decides not to keep it on ? Arguments, debates and (worse) diversions, I can just see it now.

  14. Masks help but cloth masks are insufficient, see for instance https://www.medrxiv.org/content/medrxiv/early/2020/05/15/2020.05.09.20096644.full.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3M6BIUqrsTZF6HMncqq_2E6dviRa94HQSSnaaTOaDCyD1U0Xjqx0SjSHw So a disposable surgical mask is a better option,.

    The virus spreads most indoors in large gatherings, however respiratory droplets are emitted most when speaking and especially at volume – think parties, call centers – and not nearly as much when people are just sitting there silently face forward and in an evnironment (with large regional jets and mainline) that have HEPA air filtration.

    Flights simply haven’t been where clusters of infection have developed! Nursing homes, prisons, meat packing plants, we know where these clusters develop. It’s possible to contract the virus on a plane but not among the more likely places to do so.

  15. Excellent blog, and many good comments. Thank you.
    CF – I think you have a marketing opportunity here! I’d like to see a “Cranky Flyer” mask! Why not!

  16. Let’s not forget that there’s no science that says “6 feet of social distance.” It’s just a number. Why not 5 feet? Or 10 just to be safe? Isn’t Italy using 3 feet?

    1. And what happens if I test positive for anti-bodies? Do I have to wear a mask? If so, why?

      These cloth masks (that everyone touches and adjusts btw) are a joke. It’s like saying 3 ounces of toothpaste is ok but 4 ounces of toothpaste will be confiscated. Arbitrary rules with no way to back it up.

      1. Yes, everyone should wear a mask. Because part of the goal here is to get enough social solidarity to create a norm around wearing masks, just like we have a norm about wearing pants.

        The arbitrary rules aren’t rules, they’re heuristics. The messaging focuses on 6 feet because they’re trying to give people some sort of rule of thumb they can use in their daily lives. Same thing with washing your hands. Lots of people don’t effectively wash their hands, but we don’t tell people “don’t bother unless you can wash your hands like a surgeon,” because the goal isn’t perfection.

        So, keep your distance when possible, wear a mask, wash your hands.

        1. Lol, Alex! You’re too funny. First, the goal was to flatten the curve so the hospitals didn’t have to ration care. Now, the goal is to make mask-wearing normal. Given that the fatalities are mostly occurring in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, what’s the point of all this? Are the people most at risk even venturing outside, let alone flying?

    2. 6 feet is not just a randomly chosen number. It’s the average distance the large droplets that those who study this think carry much (though certainly not all) of the infectious virus travel from a normal breathing and talking person.

      1. Since when did we worry about averages? The average young person is not going to get infected and die. Yet, all schools have been shut.

      2. If that is the average distance… that means that I still have approximately a 50% chance of catching a virus.

        Why don’t we go to a 20 ft distance just to make sure get 100% of the virus?

        Maybe 50 ft just to be extra extra careful.

        Why not?

  17. Masks have become weirdly politicised down there in the U.S.

    Leaving that aside, the challenge here is trust. Wearing a homemade mask does little to protect you from getting infected by other people, but it does do a lot to protect others from getting infected by you. So to sit in close proximity with others in a plane, you have manage your mask properly to protect others, and to trust that they’re managing their masks properly to protect you. That’s a challenge in a country that’s fixated on individualism and personal autonomy.

    1. ” but it does do a lot to protect others from getting infected by you.”

      Can you please cite any study that proves what you are saying?

      If not, your comment is only an opinion!

      1. I guess two points.

        1. See what I mean about “weirdly politicised”? Mentioning masks seems to trigger Americans (pro and con) in a way that’s incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

        2. There are lots of studies before COVID-19 showing that homemade masks don’t prevent transmission of this kind of disease, but they do slow it (by reducing the amount of saliva that ends up being sprayed into the air). Here’s one: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24229526/

        But seriously, why do you even need that reference? This isn’t exactly cutting edge. The novel coronavirus belongs to the same virus family as the common cold (though it’s much more dangerous), and even your great-grandparents that covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze reduces the risk of infecting the people around you with any saliva-borne disease. It’s a silly place to choose to make a stand, whatever bigger questions exist about the pandemic and different countries’ responses.

        1. Well said, OttawaCanuck (and thanks for the cite to the study that provides some peer review back-up for the common sense point that a barrier of any kind will reduce droplets flying into the air). I think about all the difficulties our parents and grandparents faced on the home front during WW2 (not to mention all that our soldiers sacrificed in the war), all in a community effort to keep our country safe. Yet people now (in this country, at least) cannot be inconvenienced by placing a covering over their face for 30 minutes in a store or a few hours on a plane. Will the mask prevent the risk of transmission by someone who is infected without knowing it by 20%? 10%? I don’t know the exact number, but if it reduces any, which seems likely, it’s a small inconvenience that could save a life (or lives).

          1. People didn’t just fight WW2 to make us safe. There was a lot more at stake. They fought to make us FREE. Free from constant government overreach.

        2. OttawaCanuck

          Please see my earlier comments about the type of study (“randomized with a significant sample size and correcting for real world conditions).

          The study you cite was only 21 volunteers (NOT a significant sample size) and in a lab and NOT real world conditions.

          My point is that your original comment has no significant real world study to back it up

          If there are no real world studies showing the efficacy of cloth masks in an airline environment, why should we be forced to wear one?

          As I have said before… I have no problem with anyone wearing a mask if they believe they help. Just don’t make statement like they prevent the spread of Covid-19 without some science behind it.

          Of course you may want to go the route of Qatar airways! :-)

          https://presstories.com/2020/05/20/qatar-airways-flight-attendants-to-wear-flight-coveralls/

          1. Keith, just because something hasn’t been proven definitively doesn’t mean it’s not true. Why don’t we shift this high burden of proof you have the other way? Do you have a study that holds up to your lofty scientific standards proving once and for all that masks do not work? Am I allowed to move the goalpost after if you produce such a study in order to stick to my conviction?

            As was said above, it’s really disheartening that a small inconvenience like this is proving so controversial. As someone who works in the industry, I’m all for trying something to reduce this until a vaccine or cure comes along, especially when it is as innocuous as wearing a mask. The countries that have controlled this better from the get-go have a leg up, not just in aviation but in all sectors of the economy (see Korea, Australia, New Zealand).

            1. @M

              My answer to your question is that you cannot prove a negative.

              The burden of proof is on the testing of the masks because of the assertion that masks in a real world protect you from Covid-19.

              Real world testing with a significant sample size will prove if the assertion is true.

              Without real world testing, wearing a mask carries the same weight as saying that wearing a green shirt prevents the transmission of covid-19 because the virus does not like the color green.

              So M…. prove me wrong!

            2. Lol, 2 of your 3 examples are islands thousands of miles away from other population centers.

  18. “But should flight attendants become enforcers for the greater good? That’s not going to end well for anyone.”

    Umm, yes! Passenger to passenger policing, arguments and public shaming is preferred? Come on.

    1. “If the government wants to get involved and fine people who don’t obey, great. But otherwise, this is just a requirement without teeth once everyone is in that metal tube together.”

      I am with you Howard. Can’t we put some teeth into this? There are a couple of ways to handle this.

      1. Don’t want to wear a mask? OK we’ll note your seat number, and associate back to your name. You are banned from this airline for life. You book and we flag you as a terrorist or something. Persona non grata.
      2. Even better if one airline says a person is on the no mask list, they are persona non grata on ALL the airlines through an industry agreement. Have fun on Greyhound or Amtrak.
      2. Why can’t we pass a law on this or a regulation? Make the fine $10,000. That way people think long and hard about this choice. The fine is big enough where enforcement is a money making opportunity for the government.

      I always am amazed when people don’t follow easy rules and people shrug their shoulders and act like nothing can be done. If you want to fly a commercial carrier follow the rules. If not you always charter a plane. Life is full of choices. . . . .

      1. Exactly! Airlines are business that can make up whatever rules they want, government enforced or not. You get drunk, try to open the exit door in flight and throw up all over a flight attendant? Congrats, you are banned from flying the airline again. You refuse to comply with airline policy for wearing the mask? Congrats, you are banned from flying the airline again.

        1. If that happened the ADA lawsuits from those who have some sort of medical issue or difficulty breathing when wearing a mask would start flying. Suppose someone was to comply and wear the mask and ended up passing out? Would the airline be liable in that case?

      2. @Jim M

        Please see the comments from myself, Tim Dunn and Eric Morris elsewhere in this comment section.

        There is no studies that I know of which show the efficacy of masks in the general public or in aircraft.

        If you have one… please share!

        Do you really want to ban people and/or fine them for not wearing a mask where there are no studies showing that they are at all effective?

        Just wondering.

        1. Keith

          IT. DOESN’T. MATTER. Lets say you kick the seat in front of you the entire flight. Refuse to stop kicking. Should the business just go “Don’t follow our rules! We don’t care.” No! Its a private business. Get out.

          Lets say as Lord Dima said you are drunk and throwing up and belligerent. Think Wolf of Wall Street messed up. Should the business just go “Don’t follow our rules! We don’t care.” No! Its a private business. Get out.

          Lets say you assult a flight attendant or a passenger. Do you want that person back on the plane? No! Its a private business. Get out.

          No one makes you fly commercial. There is no gun to your head. You are free to charter a plane. Its their rules. Follow them. I’m not saying it should be no mask = immediate no fly. I am saying you get multiple warnings, but if you make that choice, you make that choice. Its yours to make. I don’t believe you should turn the plane around (?) or anything like that. But people need to take responsibility for being in a public setting.

          Finally yes masks stop the spread of bacteria and viruses. If you don’t think that is true insist on your dentist not wearing a mask the next time you are in. Or if you have surgery be like “No man. No need to wash up and wear a mask.”

          As seen here: https://www.snopes.com/news/2020/04/04/why-wear-face-masks-in-public-heres-what-the-research-shows/

          And here: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-do-face-masks-work.html

          And here: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/04/03/826996154/coronavirus-faqs-is-a-homemade-mask-effective-and-whats-the-best-way-to-wear-one

        1. Sean — certainly if you have a doctors note that would prevent you from wearing a mask. And that is fine. However the group of people that fall into this category, and the group of people that are the traveling public is a very small sliver. I would question if you are so sick you cannot wear a mask, what in the world are doing traveling by commercial airline by now?

          1. @Jim M

            You do not have to be sick to be unable to put on a mask.

            I have torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders that only allow me to raise my arms to shoulder level.

            Even though their is nothing outwardly wrong with me, I cannot put on a mask.

            There are also other conditions that would preclude you from wearing a mask but allow you to travel just fine.

            1. “I have torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders that only allow me to raise my arms to shoulder level.

              Even though their is nothing outwardly wrong with me, I cannot put on a mask.”

              C’mon man. Enough already.

              Just say you don’t want to wear one and be done with it. At least that would be intellectually honest.

          2. I happen to suffer from CP as well as being vision impaired & as a result getting masks on is something I’m unable to do. So instead I use a T-shirt as my best effort. So I would be a bit more understanding & respectful to those who are challenged.

            Thank you.

  19. Masks, social distancing, lock-downs, etc. etc. is all security theater. Just like the TSA is saving us from terrorism by confiscating liquids over 3oz. Are they helping lower risk, sure, but everything we choose to do in life carries inherent risk. If you think you can go about a normal life free of risk from anything that could sicken or potentially kill you I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

    Airlines are private businesses and if they want to implement policies that’s their prerogative. I’m not a big proponent of masks but Costco requires them so I wear one in there. If I get on a flight I’ll wear one if that’s the airlines policy. Tweeting that AA doesn’t care about their pax safety because you have to sit next to someone is hysteria. If you are afraid of life go find a padded cell and have fun.

    BTW, at the beginning this was all about “flattening the curve” so hospitals didn’t get a rush of patients and get overwhelmed. By all accounts we are past that. NYC was really the only place that had much of a surge anyway. Somehow a couple months of quarantine made everyone think they should be protected from viruses 100% of the time everywhere. Ridiculous thought and impossible.

    1. @A

      Well said!

      One thing that really makes the whole argument for wearing a mask on board and aircraft invalid is that you take it OFF to eat and drink while on the flight unlike wearing one at Costco.

      Since everyone on a flight gets served at about the same time, you have a plane full of passengers all taking off their masks at about the same time.

      If the airlines just want you to wear a mask to make you good, they should just say that. They should not mandate it IMHO!

    2. “BTW, at the beginning this was all about “flattening the curve” so hospitals didn’t get a rush of patients and get overwhelmed. By all accounts we are past that.”

      No we aren’t as cities such as Nashville are dealing with a surge of cases as we speak. Perhaps not the same as NYC, but a surge nun the less.

      “” NYC was really the only place that had much of a surge anyway. Somehow a couple months of quarantine made everyone think they should be protected from viruses 100% of the time everywhere. Ridiculous thought and impossible.”

      It wasn’t just NYC, but between NJ thru RI with high concentrations in CT & MA. As for protection from all viruses, you are correct that is impossible. However consider something I posted several weeks ago on this topic involving mental health. The traumatic impact of the virus will leave many with a unique combo of paranoia, agoraphobia & germaphobia to deal with & that’s really difficult on so many levels.

  20. Cranky, you continue to disappoint and you are a disgrace to the airline industry. Get out of the way and let us run our airlines. You are a sheep that follows whatever the liars in the media put out there. Plenty of peer-reviewed studies have shown that this virus is no worse than the flu. So why the sudden need for masks & all that nonsense? Why didn’t you cower in fear last year like you’re doing now, given the 80k-plus deaths that occur each year from the flu? You are acting like viruses are new and haven’t been around throughout the history of the world. If you’re this scared of it, then I assume you also stopped driving your car on the dangerous roads, considering the number of deaths & serious injuries that occur on the road from accidents (which dwarf the virus deaths). If you do still ride in motor vehicles then that would make you the biggest hypocrite since you’re accepting certain levels of risk on one area but not others. If you are scared or personally vulnerable, then stay home yourself. Don’t take away my freedoms. I’m not responsible for anyone’s feeling of “safety” but my own. Also, this ridiculous overreaction has destroyed countless lives and will result in many more deaths than the virus itself. I wish you could find two brain cells to put together to realize that.

  21. As another poster stated above with respect to air travel in the early days following 9/11, the only thing that really matters is public perception of air travel safety. It is irrelevant whether or not there are peer reviewed scientific articles proving or disproving the efficacy of wearing masks while flying in reduction of virus transmission. You can wave those articles at the public all you want. The public will not be convinced. Posts of pictures of full planes and stories from flyers that feared for their safety are what grab the public’s attention. Like it or not.

    If ultimately the goal is a return to a semblance of pre-pandemic air travel the airlines are going to have to play along with public perception. Costly or not. Illogical or not. The last term one would typically use to describe the general public is logical.

    If not the airlines for the next several years are going to remain much smaller than they were pre-pandemic with paying passengers limited primarily to those who have no choice other than to fly and those that don’t believe that flying presents an unacceptable level of risk and can afford to fly, which at present appears to be the minority.

    1. @DA

      So… the airlines buying into the passenger paranoia and lack of anything scientific regarding masks will help the airlines recover how?

      Sounds like you are saying that if everyone else jumps off a bridge…. you should too.

      I would recommend you read Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” for a great story about “public perception” and its limits!

      1. @Keith

        I am not sure that you understood the intent of my post. You, and the airlines for that matter, can point out to the public how HCA wrote this great little story about the dangers of succumbing to the power of public perception all you want. It will not have any effect.

        The airlines are struggling to stay in business. In order to stay in business they need to sell more tickets, a lot more tickets. I am not sure that just telling that segment of the public who are unwilling to fly under current circumstances that they collectively need to “get over it” is the means to achieve that goal. Especially when many of them, rightly or wrongly, are worried about their health and the health of their loved ones. But then perhaps that is just my perception.

        1. @ DA

          Let me ask you this question.

          Say that the fact that there is no evidence that support the efficacy of face masks to prevent the transmission of covid-19 in aircraft becomes generally known.

          What do you think would happen to wearing masks aboard an aircraft?

          My guess is that very few people would wear masks.

          So if that message is socialized enough that WILL bring customers back!

          You have to start somewhere.

          1. >Say that the fact that there is no evidence that support the efficacy of face masks to prevent the transmission of covid-19 in aircraft becomes generally known.

            That’s a bold assumption because it is incorrect – there is evidence, despite you ignoring the studies cited by others in the comments. And you’ve slyly raised the bar here from “reduce the transmission” (10% -> 1% rate) to “prevent the transmission (10% -> 0% rate), while a reduction in transmission is the correct and reasonable to use.

            But let’s assume you’re right – say masks are useless. Then the second big assumption you make comes into play – “becomes generally known”, “if that message is socialized enough”. Do you really believe that with the level of disagreement in the media (and even these comments!) that people will come to an agreement about this in the short/medium term? It’s been politicized by partisans.

            And therein lies the choice for airlines: requiring masks will drive away the conservatives who are reluctant to wear masks due to the inconvenience and doubt of effectiveness, but not requiring masks will drive away the liberals who fear being infected and lead to more public outcry on social media. Except it’s not a choice at all, because airlines need both groups to survive. And it’s not a real choice because if airlines don’t require masks, liberals won’t fly because they fear infection and death. But if airlines do require masks, conservatives will fly anyway (and complain and try to evade the requirement) because putting on a mask is riskless and not a significant burden. So airlines will require it based off their own bottom line – mask policy means more customers will feel confident buying tickets, which mean survival.

            1. Exactly.

              Not only that. I suspect that airlines such as Delta which are doing a better job of appealing to the group desiring what they perceive as responsible infection control are going to reap the benefit financially in the end.

              Given the choice between American whose policy is “well, we may or may not do something depending on how many seats we can sell and all bets are off once we’ve got your butts in seats and the doors are closed” and Delta’s claims of capped seat sales coupled with onboard mask policy, I am willing to bet that a lot of paying passengers are going to opt for Delta even if it may require some additional inconvenience or longer routing.

  22. Sean — Certainly I did not think of this type of condition, although I should have. Apologies. I was thinking of individuals who have breathing issues that would make me wonder why they would risk exposure right now.

    Certainly yourself and others with motor issues would get qualify for a documented exemption. BTW putting on a mask does not require lifting one’s shoulders for Keith — unless his neck is 3′ long.

    1. Sean — Certainly I did not think of this type of condition, although I should have. Apologies.

      It’s all good.

      Please don’t make fun of Keith, it can depend on the spot of the injury & therefore the bending of the arm. But he could be good at necking though.

    2. @ Kevin

      If I showed you my orthopedic surgeons diagnosis and x-rays would you then believe that I do have torn rotator cuffs and cannot raise my arms past shoulder level.

      I was just trying to point out to Jim M that you do not have to be sick to not be able to put on a mask and that not being able to put a mask on should NOT be a reason that you cannot fly.

      My assertion is that there is NO evidence on the efficacy of wearing a mask on a flight so why should we do it?

      And…”because I said so” is NOT a good answer! :-)

      1. “If I showed you my orthopedic surgeons diagnosis and x-rays would you then believe that I do have torn rotator cuffs and cannot raise my arms past shoulder level.”

        No one’s disputing whether or not you’re injured. You not being able to raise your arms doesn’t preclude you from getting a mask on.

        Spoiler alert: My shoulders are F’ed up too- yet somehow I can manage to get one on when needed.

    3. @ Jim M

      At least for me, my ears are above my shoulders :-)

      FYI when you have torn rotator cuffs you have a limited range of motion which includes trying to put a mask on over your head or around your ears.

      So… if I can’t put on a mask, should I not be allowed to fly?

      1. Keith — I work in an essential business. I wear a mask everyday. I pull it out of my bag, and put it on my face. It’s not a hat. It’s not a ski mask. My hands never ever break the vertical plane of my face.

        I’ve torn my rotator cuff and dislocated my shoulder. I still have some pain when I extend my shoulder. This requires none of that.

        If you can buckle your own safety belt you can put on a mask. And if you can’t I have zero idea what happens……

  23. Well… interesting blog post… and the comments were, sadly, as expected.

    Since it is pretty clear no one has ever changed their mind based on anonymous comments on an internet blog/forum (don’t ask me for a peer reviewed study), I will just state that as long there is no enforced mandate to wear masks and provide minimum separation (middle seat) I personally will not travel by plane (or other crowded conveyance) unless it is an emergency. I am not in a high risk group, but I interact with others who are (many friends feel the same way).

    All my travel is discretionary (exception would be a family emergency) and self funded. I am (was) a frequent flyer in the literal sense (not just a member of a membership program) with about 2 million BIS miles. If airlines (and/or governments) want me to spend my money traveling, they need to ensure I feel safe doing so. And yes, if distancing means higher fares due to higher costs, I am willing to put my money where my covered mouth is. I would be willing to buy domestic F/international J, but for now I just don’t trust my fellow ‘muricans who think wearing a mask is a violation of their civil rights …

    And Cranky, public shaming doesn’t work. After reading the comments in this thread, that’s probably become clear.

    1. Oliver,
      I hope you measure what people actually do on airplanes and not what they say on internet chat forums.
      And, I would also very much like to see data on what percentage of the American population is complying with facial covering requests and I would also like to see that by carrier.
      I will go out on a not very long limb and guess that there is a correlation between airlines that do their part to limit the number of people on planes and the willingness of their passengers to comply wiht requests to protect other passengers.
      And I hope you realize that there are people who can both question all of what is being done and still comply with requests; the internet becomes a place to debate policy even while complying with that which presently exists.

      I respect that you want to protect those with whom you mingle, but I trust that you also recognize that there have been many contagious diseases as well as common less contagious diseases that wreak havoc on vulnerable populations; nursing homes have always had very high rates of death because of infection.
      Most respiratory viruses either become endemic at low enough levels that are not a threat to the general population or they mutate, weaken or die out. The chances are high that the same thing will occur with this virus even though billions of dollars are being spent to find a vaccine and viable treatments.

      The world has had a rude awakening over the past few months and has learned a lot. I hope you and others recognize that people perceive this disease as differently as just about every other issue out there and there is at least a certain amount of truth to every position.

      You might choose to sit it out but I hope that you realize that part of the response to this virus has been for those that have resources to stay at home in safety while the majority of the people in the world cannot. There are millions of Americans that cannot work from home and there are many people working to allow me and tens of millions of others to be able to work virtually.
      The economic and psychological impact of sheltering in place for most of the world will come at a much higher cost in terms of starvation, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness.
      If you choose to stay at home where you are safe, that is your choice but I hope you realize that only a relatively low percent of the world is really able to stay at home with sufficient space to prevent the transmission of the virus. The cost to society as a whole including lost lives will far exceed the number of people that incrementally died of this disease.

      Oh, and one other thing.

      The current mortality rate for the human race is 100%.

    2. Hi Oliver,

      All I’m going to say is do what you feel is right & I won’t judge.

      “And Cranky, public shaming doesn’t work. After reading the comments in this thread, that’s probably become clear.”

      I agree & so does John Oliver as he devoted an episode of his show last season to this subject.

  24. It seems there are 2 schools of thought on the masks as well. Some say the mask will help protect the wearer. Some experts say it will help to not spread droplets.
    Other experts say it really doesn’t help. Also, most people wearing masks aren’t wearing them properly and they take them off and put them back on.

    You say it’s selfish to not wear a mask, but I’m wondering how you know for certain they are even effective. Instead it seems you are following a particular school of thought.

    Also curious, is there a study indicating that leaving the middle seat open would be effective in protecting travelers, or is it simply a feeling of comfort?

  25. Generally a well written post, as usual. But I can’t agree with public shaming anyone who does not wear a mask onboard. Will some of them be doing it for lazy selfish reasons? Sure. Will some of them be doing it just because they don’t see any value in wearing masks or because “my rights?” Yes. But there are those – as evidenced in some of the previous comments – who have legitimate medical reasons for not wearing masks. Shaming will have no effect on the lazy, selfish, stubborn or non believers. And it will have no positive effect on the legitimate abstainers. All that public shaming will do is possibly create problems for other passengers and flight crew. No one needs that, especially in times where traveling is more stressful than ever. I suggest you rethink that part of your post.

  26. Here’s how I think airlines should enforce the mask rule: anyone who refuses to wear one goes on a no-fly blacklist shared by all airlines (at least until the crisis is over). Then we’ll see how much noncompliance there is when it might make it the last flight you get to take for a very long time…

  27. Wow, what a terrific post, and lots of great comments, some I agree with, and some I don’t. This post deserves a place in the Bloggers’ Hall of Fame!

    Sadly, we seem to be losing our hold on civility and common sense.

    If you have to sneeze, try to protect others from being covered by whatever you’re expelling. If you have the flu, don’t go to your office and spread your germs over everyone there. And, if you are sick don’t fly. Spare your fellow travelers.

    Drop your “Sez who?” attitude. Stop thinking everything we do has to be first driven by some highfalutin study. Stop looking for a brilliant government regulation, particularly one by DOT, about every little aspect of flying. And quit the “I can do whatever I want because this is a free country and the Constitution says I can do whatever I want! And, by God, if the Prez can do it, who’s to say I can’t?

    Please! Try to remember the words “Do unto others as you have them do unto you.” Curb your desire for vengeance in everything you do. Be informed, be smart, and we will get through this…I think!

    1. Get sick, don’t fly? The airlines need to permanently waive change fees for pax who need to reschedule trips due to illness.

  28. Great post Cranky!
    Connected to this, I really like this witty one:

    Coronavirus relies on two things to spread:
    1. The density of the population.

    and

    2. The density of the population.

    Stay safe and healthy out there!

    1. If density was the only factor then Asian countries would be in worse shape than the US related to Covid & we know that’s not the case. The US more so than other countries has a higher percentage of people with poor dietary habits & the health problems that result from it.

  29. Agree with most of this but are you really advocating public shaming Cranky? That’s disgraceful for someone in your position calling the public to do that, and if you really believe that then maybe you need to get outside more or something because you are completely out of line and frankly an idiot.

  30. Amen. I agree ?.

    If you are so concerned about social distancing then you should load up your private vehicle and drive. Social Distancing on a plane is not realistic.

  31. Ever since the COVID-19 crisis began, I have been struck by how bad “the science” on this virus has been. Basically, the scientists have told us almost nothing that is scientifically useful. All they really have is data — which lots of us who are not scientists also have and know how to process. Like we know that people who hang around other infected people in enclosed spaces for long periods of time (like hours) often get COVID-19. We also know that people don’t seem to catch this virus outside. Everything else is still unknown, large because the science is bad and there isn’t reliable data to analyze.
    Which leads me to the question of masks and airplane safety. We basically have no idea whatsoever whether masks help on an airplane but, logically, they seem like a good idea because we know that people get infected in enclosed spaces. Of course, we have no idea whether HEPA filters on airplanes change that equation, but most of us assume we’re better safe than sorry (it’s hard — but not impossible — to logically believe that masks could actually be harmful on airplanes). Since I think it’s safe to assume the scientists will also be “useless” in determining whether airplanes are actually safe in the age of COVID-19, is anyone collecting any data on this issue? There have been lots of flights in Asia and Europe since January. Has anyone studied whether passengers and crew have gotten sick, and in any proportion different from non-travellers? How about in the USA the past 2 months? Has anyone studied flight crew health? And we now have hundreds of thousands of Americans flying every day: are they getting sick with COVID more or less often than the general public? These answers shouldn’t be that difficult to get. They would be nice to have. Heck, I don’t think I’ve seen a single COVID case linked to an airplane flight. How is that possible? And why can’t we do better in figuring this out? Heck the issue would easily seem to be worth billions to the airline industry.

    1. Iahphx – All good questions for discussion. I don’t know how you could prove whether someone definitively caught COVID on an airplane without actual contact tracing, and that seems to be anathema in our culture. I mean, even if someone does nothing but take one flight over a month long period, how do we know if it was contracted in the airport, on the plane, etc? We don’t unless we can connect the dots and people don’t really seem to take that as a serious option here.

      All that being said, there are plenty of people who seem to think they caught it on an airplane including this high profile case: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/virologist-hospitalized-coronavirus-believes-he-got-it-through-his-eyes-n1206956

      I have friends who call and say things like, “I know a guy who caught it on an airplane” and it scares them. But we really have no idea. It’s highly anecdotal.

      While there is a ton of science we don’t know yet, we do know that it gets transmitted with droplets that are exhaled. (That’s not saying it’s the only way, but it seems to be the most efficient way we’ve discovered so far.) People were concerned about being trapped in an airplane that would recirculate the virus and infect everyone, but the HEPA filter effectively prevents that. That means chances of transmission appear to be similar to any enclosed space — it’s all about who is around you in close proximity that spreads droplets to you whether via breathing (less likely), talking (a bit more likely), sneezing (more likely), or coughing (more likely).

      If everyone wears a mask, then that makes it much harder to transmit droplets. A lot more gets caught in the mask, and that’s a good thing.
      Even if we don’t have definitive numbers on transmission, the thing about a mask is that it’s barely an imposition. So the tradeoff here is so minor that it’s an worthwhile thing to do not only to help limit transmission but to make people feel more comfortable.

    2. I think that calling the science bad is rather unfair. Speaking as a scientist (though a physical scientist, not a biologist or medical scientist of any sort), the timescale on which this research has come out is incredibly quick. It typically takes years to design an experiment, set it up, perform the experiment, analyze the results, and write the paper. The conclusions on COVID-19 have come out in weeks. That’s astounding.

      Of course there are some conflicting results and unclear conclusions when the science happens this quickly, and a lot of the details remain unknown. But to me (again, speaking as a scientist but definitely not one who knows the relevant fields in anything but a lay capacity; my last biology or chemistry class was junior year of high school!), it seems pretty clear that this virus is contracted primarily during reasonably extended time sharing the same enclosed space, and that airborne contraction is much more of a concern than touching things, especially if we’re good about washing or (in a pinch) sanitizing hands before touching our face.

      The air filtration makes it reasonable to believe that an airplane is not nearly as bad as it would otherwise be to have a space with so many people per square meter for many hours, but airplanes definitely seem like a place where the best evidence we have suggests pretty extreme caution is warranted. Certainly masks seem very much warranted based on the simulations and experiments which show that linen masks very much reduce the distance large droplets travel. The air filtration system won’t protect you from me (and vice versa) if we’re sitting quite close to each other and my breath passes by you for six hours before it gets to the air vents. But it seems like a reasonable gas that the person sitting in seat 2C isn’t much of a threat to me sitting in 15F.

      And I completely agree with Cranky that wearing a mask is barely an imposition and carries little risk. So even though the science is just suggestive rather than definitive, taking reasonable measures (ie comparable to the measures airlines take to ensure seat belt use: flight attendants correctly saying it’s required and checking as they go up and down the aisles, with a verbal request if it is being worn but not kicking non-compliers off the airplane or aggressively babysitting everyone) to ensure widespread mask use seems wise and like it very much outweighs the (basically nonexistent) negatives.

  32. Cranky:

    You assertion that masks “help limit transmission” is flawed because it does not take into account taking off your mask, to drink, eat, clean your glasses etc.

    In fact, the article you sighted said specifically that the person thought they got covid-19 through their eyes! How is a mask supposed to prevent that?

    Especially think about the food and beverage service.

    Since that service happens at a point in time in the flight and everyone is getting served at the same time, they are all taking off their masks at about the same time.

    Unless you believe that covid-19 cannot be spread while you are eating and drinking, you can see the flaw in your assertion.

    On longer flights (transcon or international) there may even be multiple beverage/food service.

    As I have stated before in this comments sections, if wearing a mask makes YOU feel more comfortable then do it.

    Personally I think the airlines should say “If a mask makes you feel comfortable please wear one”.

    They could even hand them out to passengers that want them similar to what they do with headsets. Want one fine…. don’t want one fine!

    1. Keith – I’m not going to get into a back and forth on this, because I’m fairly certain no matter what I say, you’ll find some corner case that proves wearing a mask doesn’t work 100% of the time. That is not the point, as others have said. It’s about reducing the risk of transmission and making people feel comfortable without imposing much of a burden.
      Wearing a mask is not a big burden except for the very tiny number of people who have medical conditions and likely shouldn’t be flying anyway.
      (But if they need an exemption, fine.)

      So, I will run through your responses once and I’ll leave it at that.

      > You assertion that masks “help limit transmission” is flawed because it does not take into account taking off your mask, to drink, eat, clean your glasses etc.

      It is not flawed. Maybe this article from someone with a good pedigree will help you understand: https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them

      What matters is the amount of virus you are exposed to, and time contributes to that. If someone wears a mask for a 3 hour flight and only takes the mask off to eat and drink, that means there’s likely to be much less exposure to the virus for those around that person. It doesn’t mean there will be NO exposure, but again, that is not the point of wearing a mask.

      > In fact, the article you sighted said specifically that the person thought they got covid-19 through their eyes! How is a mask supposed to prevent that?

      Very simply. This doctor is not suggesting he is excreting the virus from his eyes but rather that someone is exhaling and the droplets are getting in his eyes. If everyone wears masks, then there are far fewer droplets to infect someone via eyes, if that proves to actually be a possibility.

      Further, this is like saying, “hey, that guy was wearing his seatbelt and still died in the car crash, so why should we wear seatbelts?” Seatbelts don’t prevent all deaths, but they sure reduce the risk. Again, nothing completely stops transmission of viruses, but masks *reduce* the risk.

      > As I have stated before in this comments sections, if wearing a mask makes YOU feel more comfortable then do it.
      > Personally I think the airlines should say “If a mask makes you feel comfortable please wear one”.
      > They could even hand them out to passengers that want them similar to what they do with headsets. Want one fine…. don’t want one fine!

      This again completely misses the point. That’s the same excuse that people who refuse vaccines give. “I don’t want to get vaccinated, but you can go ahead and do it if you want.” But when you don’t get vaccinated, it reduces the protection afforded by herd immunity, and that’s why kids going into public schools are required to get vaccinated in some states. In this case, by you not wearing a mask, you can be exposing people and putting them at a greater risk. Wearing as mask isn’t about protecting yourself.
      It’s about protecting others around you who can’t safely distance.

      1. How do you figure that your wearing a mask is for the protection of others around you? First, your wearing a mask protects you and tangentially everyone else. But, if everyone else has a mask on, it would seem they are protected regardless of what you do. What am I missing here?

        1. Paul – When you breathe/sneeze/cough, you exhale small droplets that are believed to be the most common way to transmit COVID-19. When you wear a mask, you prevent most of those droplets from going beyond the boundaries of that mask. If we’re talking an N95 mask, then yes, that blocks droplets from coming into you. But for most people, we’re talking about less effective face coverings that don’t have the same level of effectiveness.
          So, the point of wearing a mask or face covering is to keep your own droplets from traveling too far.

      2. Cranky

        Since you and I don’t agree on the use of masks on an airplane how about the idea below.

        The airlines create mask and no mask sections of the plane similar to what they used to have with smoking/no smoking sections.

        That way those of us that don’t believe that a mask in a flight offers any legitimate protection can sit separately from those that prefer to mask.

        We could even have a curtain (maybe one that looks like a face mask) that would separate the two cabins (think the curtain between first and econ) since supposedly any cloth covering is better than none.

        The airline could even remove a row of seats between those two sections if they wanted to enforce social distancing while only losing 6 revenue seats in economy.

        If you decide not to wear a mask, and sit in the no mask section you would also have to sign a waiver saying that if you catch covid-19 you won’t hold the airline liable.

        I would have no problems signing the waiver.

        That way it allows for people to make their own decisions based on their assessment.

        Your thoughts?

        1. But why? I don’t think this has to do with the medical benefits (or otherwise) of masks, but just a personal identity crisis over what people will think of you if they see you wearing one. I’m sorry you’re struggling with that, but I don’t think it’s a real problem the airlines should have to solve.

        2. (Replying late)

          There are very good reasons airlines got rid of smoking and no smoking sections (never mind the law): they don’t really protect people in the no-smoking section. Airlines would have to make the mask and no-mask sections different on each flight depending on the number of people who want to wear them. It wouldn’t work in the smaller premium cabins and areas up front, since the masked section of a four-row cabin would be very close to most of the unmasked passengers in that cabin. US airlines aren’t allowed to have opaque curtains between cabins anyway since 9/11.

          How about this: if you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t fly (or charter a private jet)! Compare that to “if you’re afraid of getting sick, stay home”, a common refrain amongst the crowd who thinks that they are so courageous that they should be able to fly now just as they did in February. Really, the downsides of wearing a cloth mask for most or all of a flight (slight discomfort? looking funny?) are quite small, and the upside (potentially reducing the probability of transmitting COVID-19 by roughly 70% and therefore keeping the virus transmission slow enough so that it tails off rather than returning to exponential growth even as we return to more like the February economy) so large, that refusing to wear a mask when sharing airspace with others is antisocial and, if this is what matters to you more, bad for the economy.

  33. I agree that, based on the scant scientific knowledge we have, it seems like a good idea to wear a face covering on a commercial airplane. Of course, we could then argue what kind of mask should you wear. Based on this same science (which, obviously, may ultimately be proven wrong) you should probably wear an N95 mask, as a regular mask is mostly useless for preventing infection. N95 masks now seem to be pretty available: I’ve bought some on the web this week for about 2 bucks each. Given the current massive levels of production, I assume in 2 weeks, an airline could buy them for 50 cents each.
    I do still wonder if any pax/crew data is being collected. I suspect it is not, because it’s sometimes better not to know. For example, people who work in hospitals tell me hospitals don’t really want to test their employees, and the employees themselves don’t want to be tested. That said, if we did collect airline pax/crew data, I would assume it would not be terribly interesting. The other data that is coming in strongly suggests that most infections that are not acquired at home are nosocomial (nursing home, hospital) or connected to congregate living (like prisons), or from very unusual workplaces (meatpacking, a cold environment with close quarters). In other words, the type of people who fly are probably less susceptible than the type of person who typically gets COVID-19, so the infection rate among pax is probably low. We know affluent zip codes have lower infection rates than poorer zip code, and that airline pax tend to skew affluent. Of course, without data collection, we will never really know.

  34. Airlines police people wearing seatbelts. Airlines police people sitting in their assigned seat. Airlines police people bringing luggage under the allowed weight. But they can’t police passengers wearing masks because it would “end badly”? A bad ending is multiple people on a flight getting COVID, not some Trumper getting upset that they have to wear a mask.

  35. CF – I just want to compliment you for both your patience explaining COVID-19 transmission to commenters, and the accuracy of your explanations (as far as I can tell as a layperson who occasionally works with health professionals). What you’re saying aligns exactly with what we’re hearing from public health officials up here in Canada: the virus has lots of ways in (eyes, etc) but only two ways out (mouth and nose), so covering your mouth and nose with a homemade mask is primarily to trap some of the droplets you exhale and to reduce—not eliminate—the risk of you infecting other people.

    Speaking of risk reduction, that’s exactly the point. We see a lot of all-or-nothing arguments—if a measure can’t reduce the risk to 0%, why bother reducing the risk at all? I thought you addressed that well, too. The longer you’re exposed to the virus, the more chance it has to infect you: that’s why we see young, healthy healthcare professionals on ventilators and/or dying, because they’ve been exposed so many times (I think they call it “virus bombing”). That’s also why health workers feel so betrayed by people protesting against public health measures, because like soldiers during war, the health workers the ones separated from their families and putting their lives on the line during the pandemic.

  36. Cranky, you have an obligation to be up front and honest about your political bias and propaganda in your blog. Read nearly every article Cranky posts in the past year or two and there is the uncomfortable twinge of liberal bias. It’s really a shame.

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