NIH director Dr. Anthony Fauci “want’s people to keep their masks on” potentially forever on planes, and thinks a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel would “spur” Americans to get vaxxed.
“We want to make sure people keep their masks on. I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering,” Fauci said in an interview on Sunday.
His comments are directly contradictory to those of airline CEOs at a congressional hearing on Dec. 15. Delta Chief of Operations John Laughter said onboard HEPA filters “remove 99.99% of airborne particles onboard” on commercial flights.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby concurred that “effectively anywhere that you’re going to be indoors, the airplane is the safest place that you can be indoors, it’s because of the air filtration,” based on a study in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly remarked that “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.”
Fauci doesn’t believe their HEPA filters cut it when dealing with COVID. “I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good that you want to go that extra step,” he said. “When you have people, you know you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s a well over a five hour flight.”
He also thinks that a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel will foster national inoculation efforts.
“A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated; namely, you can’t get on a plane unless you’re vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be,” Fauci added.
But pointed out that the combination of wearing masks and aircraft HEPA filters is safe enough to continue without one.
“So I mean, anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome,” he concluded. “But with regard to the spread of virus in the country, I mean, I think if you look at wearing a mask and the filtration on planes, things are reasonably safe,