Dr. Fauci’s latest about masks on planes
Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on Sunday morning’s episode of “This Week,” and answered a variety of questions posed by Jonathan Karl. One of them involved masks on airplanes, following the (questionable) comments from some airline executives this past week about how masks on planes are no longer needed. Here’s the key part of the interview:
Question: “Several of the CEOs of top airlines said that on an airplane you’re actually safer than you are in an ICU, the protection and the filtration system they have. They were suggesting there isn’t really much of a need for a mask on an airplane. Are we going to get to the point where we won’t have to wear masks on airplanes?”
Answer: “I don’t think so. I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that that extra step when you have people. You know, you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s well over a five hour flight, even though you have a good filtration system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do, and we should be doing it.”
That’s a pretty drastic statement, assuming Dr. Fauci understood the question correctly, or at least answered the question being posed. The question was about whether we’ll get to the point where masks won’t be needed on planes, and Dr. Fauci said he doesn’t think we’ll get to that point.
Now, I should acknowledge that some people interpreted Dr. Fauci’s statement differently than I did. Some interpreted his comments to mean that masks are needed for the time being, and until case numbers go down. I don’t think that was an answer to the question being posed, but I get how nuance like that can be lost in an interview. So let’s address the topic more generally.
When should masks no longer be needed on planes?
Frankly it’s hard to have any reasonable discussions around masking or coronavirus, at least online. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground between the people feel the need to tell everyone on Twitter how much they enjoy wearing masks, and those on Twitter who simply deny that vaccines or masks work (I’m exaggerating slightly here, but not by much).
Let me try to take a middle-ground approach (which reflects how I actually feel), noting that I’m neither a doctor nor a scientist. Rather I’m just someone who travels a lot, who is vaccinated and boosted, who appreciates what scientists and doctors have done, who has managed to avoid getting coronavirus, and who continues to try to live my life while still applying common sense and taking precautions that protect me and (more importantly) those around me who are more vulnerable.
With that in mind, here’s my take:
- Did a mask mandate on planes make sense at the start of the pandemic? Yes, absolutely…
- Does a mask mandate on planes make sense right now? At this very moment I’d probably say yes, because I can’t count the number of people I know who have coronavirus or are sick, albeit with very mild symptoms
- Could I see myself wearing a mask in the future when flying, even if there’s not a requirement to do so? Possibly…
Personally I don’t think there’s any justification for not eventually removing a mask mandate on planes, though:
- From a public health standpoint, yes, wearing masks on planes will likely reduce the risk of illness over time, even if coronavirus becomes less dangerous; public health experts don’t necessarily have to weigh quality of life when making these recommendations
- Coronavirus will hopefully get to the point where it’s no more dangerous than so many other risks that we take, and if the COVID-19 pills currently being tested work even slightly as well as planned, that could greatly reduce severe illness and death
- In my opinion the only logical reason to expect masks to be mandated on planes forever is if you don’t believe we’ll get to the point where the death toll from coronavirus decreases significantly
Pre-pandemic we took a lot of risks in life that could be avoided, from getting in a car, to going to a social event and getting the flu. Yet we often didn’t think twice about them. Hopefully coronavirus will eventually be like that as well.
Dr. Fauci talked about masking on airplanes in an interview this morning. The way I interpreted the interview, it was being suggested that masks on airplanes are here to stay permanently, but others had a different interpretation.
Personally I’m hopeful that we’ll get to the point where masks on planes are no longer required. The reason I say that is because I sure hope the death rate from coronavirus will eventually decrease significantly, thanks to new treatment options. If the death rate decreases significantly, then it seems coronavirus should be treated like so many other risks we’ve taken over time.
When do you think masks on planes will no longer be mandated?