American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has walked back his testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. What does this mean for airline passengers who would like to stop wearing masks while flying?
On Tuesday, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker walked back his testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He had testified that passengers would not need to wear masks when flying on American Airlines. The CEO of America’s largest airline company said that he misspoke during his testimony.
Does a Mandatory Still Make Sense After American Airlines CEO Walks Back Senate Testimony On Masks?
on December 17, 2021 by Gary Leff
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly stated this week at congressional hearings that masks offer no added value in air travel due to the safety of the aircraft environment. “I concur,” said American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. And he’s been walking it back since then, but over the summer, when the virus was at its lowest, he and the CEOs of United and Southwest were discussing terminating the mask rule.
Commercial aviation is one of the country’s most severely regulated businesses (deregulation really just meant the government no longer told airlines where they could fly or what prices they could charge). They get a lot of money from the government. Parker’s professional history was related to government generosity even before the epidemic, and his comments contradicting the viewpoint of the federal government are troublesome. Nonetheless, the issue of aircraft masks isn’t simple in any approach.
Sloppy thinking and motivated reasoning abound in the mask argument. Here’s how I break it down.
- People aren’t sure whether masks are meant to protect them or to protect others from them. When correctly fitted and worn, a N95 mask may protect you from others. If you’re successful, a’medical mask’ or something similar or of lower quality could protect others by restricting the amount of virus you release (‘source control’). If you’re going to wear a mask, make it a better one.
- >We don’t know how effective masks are in cabin settings or outside of them. Even what seemed to be some of the strongest evidence demonstrating the efficiency of low-quality masks did not stand up.
Masks are likely to be less effective against the faster-spreading variations than they are against the Wuhan strain itself. Less protective masks, on the other hand, may have even higher advantages when the spread of a variety grows, since each instance avoided may have exponential benefits (if the limit on spread is only 50 percent as great, but each new case can cause on average 4 times as many new cases, the net benefit goes up). The fact that masks have just a little effect on dissemination does not imply that they are ineffective.
- Aircraft cabins are quite safe and contain a limited amount of dispersion. United Airlines, in particular, deserves praise for utilizing aircraft power to circulate air and using HEPA filtration during boarding and deplaning. However, airports – particularly packed security and gate areas – aren’t nearly as safe. Traveling from beginning to finish isn’t nearly as low-risk as flying.
- The federal government has a credible legal jurisdiction to impose mask regulations on travel but not on other activities, therefore we have transportation mask laws. (At best, that legal rationale is flimsy.) The mask mandate, in my opinion, will expire before the midterm elections.
- Omicron may not be as severe as preceding variations for a variety of reasons (and population-level immunity to severe outcomes appears to account for no more than 40 percent of observed difference). If true, this is all very positive, but at really high levels of spread, this may still be quite negative – a lower proportion of poor outcomes at a much greater level of spread can equate to a large number of bad outcomes.
- The reason we worry about a large amount of spread at once rather than over time is because overburdened hospitals result in a lack of treatment and poor patient outcomes. We’re all going to get it, and not getting it now might raise your chances of getting it later – and therefore extend the epidemic.
When we think about masks, we’re interested in how long we can postpone infection, how much therapy improves in the meanwhile, and if spreading illnesses increases our ability to offer care. Masks had the advantage of delaying infection – delaying infection till we had vaccinations and better therapies.
- We urgently want improved therapies, which will be significantly more effective than masks. The FDA is taking its time scheduling a meeting on Paxlovid, a drug that has shown to be very successful in treating severe illness when administered within three days after symptom start. Paxlovid has little love on the Left, as Tim Carney described it, “because it’s not a vaccine, and because it accepts the fact that everyone will get COVID.” The Right doesn’t like it since it’s not Ivermectin and it’s created by Pfizer.” In the meanwhile, the FDA is quite busy.
and who’s up for it?
Everything is up for grabs on #NationalChocolateCoveredAnythingDay!
Just make sure you know what’s in your chocolate before you start. pic.twitter.com/8URpsuuUeK https://t.co/W49x4EKka5 pic.twitter.com/8URpsuuUeK
— U.S. Food and Drug Administration (@US FDA) December 16, 2021
- Third dosages should be prioritized, with efforts and messages centered on regaining protectiveness — against infection (which also limits dissemination), severe sickness, and because viruses coated with antibodies are less likely to infect others.
- Masks are excellent in my opinion, but let’s not pretend they do more than they do. Before all of this, I wanted to wear them during flu season because I don’t want to get ill, and I have too much going on for forced rest. I don’t adore masks, but I also don’t despise them. This isn’t about utilizing my aesthetic choices to define the conversation.
However, we’ve been slacking on third doses until recently, and we’re probably too late for an Omicron wave to matter. So we need to move swiftly on Paxlovid, get fluvoxamine clinical advice out, and wait it out.
I’d argue that people who want to protect themselves should wear properly fitted N95 masks, and that we should have spent the past two years and billions of dollars allocated to airports to improve ventilation and create safer environments (the same goes for schools; the fact that we’ve done little on ventilation two years in is a crime, but failing to tie stimmie checks to vaccination is also a crime). It makes little scientific logic to single out transportation for a mask requirement, but it makes a lot of political sense. And the fact that we’re still playing politics this late in the outbreak says a lot.
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