A few months before President Joe Biden ran out of patience and began ordering Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines, he made sure people had to travel like surgeons.
Immediately upon taking office, Biden decreed that people on public transportation – including buses, trains, boats, and airplanes – must wear masks.
“It is the policy of my administration to halt the spread of coronavirus… by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures,” Biden said at the time. “Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives.”
But now, we can count the leaders of America’s major airlines to be science-deniers.
On Wednesday, Doug Parker and Greg Kelly, the CEOs of American Airlines and Southwest, respectively, told a Senate panel that masks do nothing to halt the spread of COVID on flights.
That’s because jetliners are equipped with superior air-filtration systems that make masks moot,
“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment. It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting,” Kelly said in response to a question by Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, according to CNN.
“I concur,” Parker added. “An aircraft is the safest place you can be. It’s true of all of our aircraft — they all have the same HEPA filters and airflow.”
As CNN reported, Kelly and Parker were referring to the HEPA air filters on planes that capture “virtually all” airborne contaminants. The air quality aboard the plane is bolstered by the frequency with which the air inside the cabin is swapped with fresh air from outside the plane.
Democrats, of course, balked at the CEOs’ comments.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said he was “shocked” that the unvaxxed were still allowed on planes, and that it was “immoral” to make passengers sit next to the unmasked unvaxxed, CNN noted.
Although Markey apparently did not explain what people who’ve been vaccinated have to fear from those unvaccinated passengers or consider whether the unvaxxed may have natural immunity.
But what Parker and Kelly said has been known for more than a year.
On its website in November 2020, a month before the federal government began rolling out vaccines, the American Medical Association posted an article about air travel, noting that “during air travel, the risk of COVID-19 is lower than from an office building, classroom, supermarket or commuter train.”
“In general, air enters the cabin from overhead inlets and flows downwards towards floor-level outlets,” said Dr. Rui Pombal, the medical director of the Aviation Medicine Centre and Travel Clinic at TAP Air Portugal Group Health Services. “Air enters and leaves the cabin at approximately the same seat row or immediately adjacent rows.”
“The airflow in today’s aircraft have been measured at three times the amount mandated for infection control rooms in hospitals,” added Drs. Daniel Shoor, a flight surgeon in Atlanta, and Hernando Ortega, a flight surgeon in San Antonio.
“It takes the ventilation system of a plane about six minutes to reduce the number of viral particulates in the air by 99.9%. This fact alone reduces risk significantly compared to office buildings, restaurants or homes.”
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