The Airline Biz: Clawing Back Can Hardly Be Called a Recovery


I learned a valuable lesson last week. My dentist called and asked if I wanted to schedule a routine cleaning. There was a long pause while I considered that offer. I was recalling an article I read that described the COVID-19 risk of various professions. The scatterplot showed that dentists were nearly off-scale high. But I accepted the offer, figuring the hygienist would have the personal protective equipment all squared away.

She didn’t. She appeared with a vented N95 mask—an industrial model with the outflow valve that spews the wearer’s breath back into the air. When I queried, she professed unfamiliarity and said this was the mask they had been given. I declined the cleaning and as I walked out the door, it dawned on me that people who should know about this stuff may know less than I do and the only advocate for me is me.

I wonder if airline passengers are making a similar calculation. The chart here shows four months of COVID-impacted airline travel and the data is dismal. Those are weekly averages of passengers through TSA checkpoints. The volume fell off a cliff in early March, but the worst week of all was in mid-April, when the average daily take dropped below 100,000.  

That’s just 4 percent of what it was during the same week in 2019. In our wildest fever dreams, I don’t think anyone would have predicted such a thing would be possible. It is an utter almost overnight obliteration of an entire industry. And it wasn’t due to stay-at-home orders because these were applied unevenly and there was no such national order. This reaction was purely fear driven. People looked at the numbers and the news and fled from airports and airliners in droves.

It’s pointless to argue whether the fear was justified—I think it was not—but consider instead what the airlines are going to do about it. The passenger volume is slowly trickling back, with the latest data showing volume has recovered steadily since about early May. It’s now about 25 percent compared to the same period last year. If this is good news, it’s good news in the way that a train wreck is not so bad if only one train is involved.

American and United have decided to test their customers’ resolve by announcing that distancing is over and they’re packing airplanes again. Masks are supposedly required, but an American captain told me skippers are given a list of things to do when a passenger refuses; throwing the person off the airplane isn’t on it. In other words, if you insist, masks are optional. This is good to know going in in order not to book American if you deem masks important. It makes me wonder if American will by design become the airline of the mask-nots; people who see no benefit in masks and are resentful about being asked to wear them. (Recent polling shows that almost 90 percent of people are using masks, up from 69 percent in mid-April.)

The airlines are trying to change the subject by showing how diligently they clean their cabins. For United, it’s United CleanPlus provided by Clorox. Even I will admit this is slightly reassuring, but it’s ultimately a sleight of hand. You can walk onto a sterilized airplane and be seated next to sneezy Sam in sardine-can seat pitch and be in far more jeopardy than from bacteria hiding on the tray table.

Anyone who’s paying attention knows that increasingly, virologists are finding that fomites (surfaces) are a minor infection path. Exhaled droplets and aerosols are the real worry and the physical distancing that airliner cabins simply can’t provide is the best defense against that, with masks as a distant second. The airlines may be catching on to this, too. I saw an in-depth story on how cabin air is cleaned through HEPA filters in the air packs. JetBlue did a short video on it. All good stuff, of course, but still ignores that a person coughing or sneezing nearby represents some level of unknown risk and it overlooks the crowd on the jet bridge, in the boarding area and when deplaning.

Business travelers have always been a big profit center for the airlines because such travelers don’t shop on price and are less likely to postpone or cancel trips. They aren’t fickle like the Stooldrears taking the kids to Disney. They also aren’t coming back in nearly the volume the airlines want. A survey in April by Global Business Travel Association found members had canceled or suspended 92 percent of domestic business travel. Some of these travelers will inevitably come back, but my guess is it will be a long time before they recover to 2019 volumes, if they ever do.

Consider that a medium to large business will have liability worries over ordering employees to travel when the risks are simply unknown. They could just as well be trivial as substantial. We have too little data to make a judgment. I don’t see much reporting on infections traced to airplanes but no news is not necessarily good news. An announcement from Delta last week said 500 employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 and 10 died. Delta didn’t say if any or all were flightcrew or office staff. Hawaiian Airlines just announced 14 flight attendants have contracted COVID, but it appears to have been related to training, not flight operations.

When considering such stories as a means of assessing risk, there’s a natural tendency to think things looks bad. But let’s insert some perspective. Such reports have to be considered in the larger context of infection rates among the entire universe. Delta, for instance, has nearly 90,000 employees. Five hundred is a half percent of that. Without all the data, we’re as blind as the bats that caused this disaster.

I also wonder if airline travel deemed too risky will cause structural changes in the business economy. We’re all tired of Zoom conferences, but they get the job done and if businesses realize they’re 90 percent as good as physical travel at zero cost, they make think twice about returning to high volumes of expensive business travel.

AVweb readers are in tune with the general public on returning to airline flying. A recent poll we conducted found that 23 percent already have flown, but nearly as many—21 percent—said give it a year and 36 percent said no chance for now. More than half of the general public is unwilling to fly now, according to polls.

I’m not sure what more the airlines can do to restore confidence. But I’m pretty sure filling the airplanes up is not gonna do it. Personally, I hunger for accurate, timely data on transportation-related infection trends. This seems as impossible to get as a $5 haircut. Or any haircut.

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  1. “It’s pointless to argue whether the fear was justified—I think it was not”
    Yes it is Paul. When you’re constantly lied to as we are from just about every source we used to trust, all trust goes away and fear settles in. The more we are lied to, the more we distrust. This has been going on for years only to accelerate to light speed within the last few years. It’s the “new normal” for life as we know it. I’m glad I’m an old man. I used to know what it was like before. At least I can dream and remember what it was like. Welcome to the “Brave New World.”

    • The fear-porn-clicks media has not reported the number of people who have immunity to this virus. Reporting tens of millions of Americans have become immune and are actually the killers to the spread of this virus just won’t help their everything-politics narrative. Once you recover from any virus your immune system then kills the virus as it is breathed in. At least that’s been the case since the beginning of life, until this election year.

      • Not all immunity is the same. Some diseases, like chicken pox, give near lifetime immunity. Others, like the cold or flu, only last for several months.

        Unfortunately, more and more studies are showing that Covid-19 only confers a few months of immunity to its survivors. There’s still more research to do, but it’s unlikely that ‘herd immunity’ will be a solution.

        • That would be consistent with other corona viruses, and in that sense, it really is like the cold/flu that we’re familiar with. It’s likely that sars-cov-2 will ultimately be another virus that people will need to get seasonal shots for, if they want any sort of continued immunity.

    • Just today, I heard a commenter and host on a popular radio program who had the same sentiment about “being old” (intimating he doesn’t have long to put up with this crappus maximus), Tom. He isn’t the only one; I’m hearing that more often these days and I feel the same way, too. I pity young people who will inhabit this “brave new world” and will never know what it was like to play in a tree and fall out of it.

      In a way, it’s not unlike the “MO” of the FAA. A safety culture which takes safety directives to the Nth degree and makes doing business SO onerous trying to make flying 110% safe that people finally throw up their hands and walk away or never start. A happy medium would be nice but … some people’s only job is just to parrot the Company “line” and scare the heck out of the rest of us because they have the power to over control us. Unlimited budgets have that effect, don’t ya know. “Guidance” means pointing a group of people in a general direction — the cardinal headings, e.g. — not defining each and every specific nuance of a problem or situation. Kinda like driving a herd of cows.

      Let the traveling public tell the airlines what they want … with their business or lack thereof. I think they’ll “get” the message … one way or the other.

  2. “I’m not sure what more the airlines can do to restore confidence.”

    I don’t think there is anything more they can do, and that it’s entirely outside of their hands until a vaccine is generally available.

  3. “It’s pointless to argue whether the fear was justified—I think it was not”

    In the early days of the national hysteria when there were only a few cases, the fear of flying was not justified but now that there are over 3,000,000 cases documented and probably several times that undetected it is much more reasonable not to fly. My suspicion is that when the numbers come in accounting for the Independence Day bump, it will be truly sobering.

  4. I ended up dropping my regular dentist because he would not finish putting in a crown after returning from a training event in New Jersey without waiting 14 days. I went to another who said he does patients who are nurses and other hospital personnel without the 14 day wait. They were wearing face coverings that looked like medical masks but is not possible to tell if they were chinese copies.

    As far as the airline situation, I have avoided airlining as much as possible. All the covid restrictions just make the airline experience that much worse. Just finished two 7 hour drives to and from the client trip location to avoid airlining due to plane being parked at location for 5 days. Overnights have also been limited to areas with minimum restaurant restrictions.

    Businesses and individuals who were reluctant due to cost, before all this started are still traveling, just using charters instead. My company has flown many new clients due to those not wanting to airline or deal with the limitations of “Zoom” conferences.

    An adjacent county where I live has increased restrictions including mask wearing, so I just avoid that area and do business in counties that I do not have to deal with all that.

    • I’m losing your logic train, Matt W?

      You start out by saying you dropped your dentist because he won’t self quarantine and isn’t wearing proper masks. Then you tell us that you’re driving 7 hours to avoid “airlining” yet your overnight stops are in areas where there are “minimum restaurant restrictions.” You finish by telling us that you’re avoiding an adjacent county where mask wearing is being enforced in favor of business in counties where you don’t have to deal with mask wearing or have other such restrictions.

      What’s your position or point ??? I’m SO confused.

      • I dropped the dentist because he wanted me to self quarantine. I told him that since I am considered an “essential” employee that was not possible. I hate airlining to begin with, the mask restrictions just make it worse. I still believe wearing masks on a pressurized plane can be dangerous during a depressurization event. As far as restaurants restrictions are concerned if I do an overnight, like I had to during recurrent, then I have to bring along food from home and find a hotel that has microwaves and fridge in the room. Not all hotels do that. Actually brought a microwave supplied by my company since the hotel used did not have microwaves in the rooms. As far as mask restrictions I have already expressed my feelings on that issue on previous postings and was trying to keep this one on topic as much as possible.

  5. “It’s pointless to argue whether the fear was justified—I think it was not”

    For whatever reason, the public had an inflated idea of how deadly the disease was back in March, and probably still do. You can see this study from a survey that shows that between Feb 23 and March 2, the survey respondents thought the mortality rate was 5%:

    That was obviously false even then. The latest CDC estimates are 0.26% and the median age of death is ~80, but I doubt the general public is aware that the risk is so low even today. There is only one reason for that, the media gets a lot more views and clicks whipping up panic. It is akin to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater if you ask me, and the damage to the world from all this hysteria is going to kill far more people than the virus, and cause many many times more suffering.

  6. A friend who’s flown a few times in the last month told me that the flights were 100% full already. They weren’t *selling* the middle seats: they were just overbooking, and then, surprise, all those standby folks were given middle seats.

    This is anecdotal, but it sounds like something the airlines would do, eh? Nice shuck.

  7. Perhaps something is missing from this article. Can anyone argue against what may be the best method of spreading this pandemic, thru commercial airline flying? While the facts habe shown Oregon or Washington were first to report Covid-19, travelers from Europe to the northeast spread Covid-19. A look at airline routes demonstrates typical flight paths making this little orb we call Earth much smaller, allowing people to connect with others in as little as a day of flying. Perfect transmission method for anyone asymptomatic or already having symptoms of this virus. With New York City becoming the epicenter at the beginning of a USA pandemic, airlines became the defacto transmission method for the little buggers. A free ride anywhere around the world. It doesn’t take rocket science to realize how easy contagion can spread like wildfire from one person carrying Covid-19 and inadvertently spreading it to unsuspecting air travelers. Unfortunately the same occurred on board cruise ships and alarmingly into our military, on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Covid-19 disregards barriers, period. Even barriers become aids to spreading this virus. If fear from flying occurred, it most likely spread from the very same passengers back in January and February, the ones that came down with it and simply passed on to others not to fly. Hearsay may be credited with stoppage of air travel as the first peak spread occurred in NYC. It’s presumed the world was caught with its pants and dress down since it spread everywhere.

    I don’t envy airlines attempting to recover lost business. On the one hand, airlines helped spread this pandemic thru no fault but it can be said that it can airline travel can still spread it since this invisible contagion only needs one walking talking host insisting on not wearing a mask without showing any symptoms, the perfect host who’s asymptomatic.

    Collateral damage has yet to be predicted nor assessed with so many variables governing air travel. Collateral damage of the human kind becoming another carrier and/or being infected by simply wanting to travel by air. The sports are showing professional players electing to bow out this year, all of them collectively considering their immediate families first before money and fame. Has this pandemic already forced business travelers to contemplate similar considerations to the health and well being of themselves and family first before stepping on chancy air travel?

    • I saw a YouTube video where a guy had a calibrated oxygen sensing meter. He put it by his mouth without a mask and it registered the correct ratios of gases. Then, he put a mask on and did the same thing. The meter automatically put out a ‘low oxygen’ alarm after about 10 seconds. Nuff said. I can feel that when I wear MY masks.

  8. Fred D…” Can anyone argue against what may be the best method of spreading this pandemic, thru commercial airline flying?”

    There is no question that close indoor quarters is the best method of transmission. It does not matter if it’s an indoor stadium, restaurant, bar, hair salons, gym, etc., making an airliner right at the top of giving the gift that keeps on giving because it is so mobile, long legged mobile. There is no doubt, nahdah, with airliner loads of data, that proves, getting close, staying close to another human is the fastest, easiest, most effective way to spread Covid-19.

    There seems to be two camps. One camp seems to come up with data, usually total death data, crunches the deaths vs total population ratio…and voila! starts the argument that percentage is so low to justify the don’t tread on me attitude, I am not going to Ma͏s͏k, not going to social distance, I want life lived pre-Covid-19 because this is an infringement on my independence rights, Big Govmit is watching, nobody in authority or in the press knows what they are talking about, nobody is going to tell me what to do, etc., etc.

    The other camp is looking at the same data and sees almost 140k and climbing dead people, hospitals in many urban areas saturated with not only Covid-19 cases but ICU’s flooded not with just old people but young, middle age folks now. They note the results of Memorial Day, the cities and locations that eased restrictions making any Covid19 compliance a recommendation rather than enforcement and sees that many will not do anything to reduce the transmission unless it’s an enforced law. These folks have been and are masking, social distancing, maintaining careful hygiene and can clearly see crowded places have to be avoided completely. They have been the ones being cooperative for the greater good in spite of the inconvenience. Naturally, these people are not going to climb into an airliner nor dining at the local pub.

    The airlines know this. They just don’t know how many are in the first camp. But it is obvious that there is a large enough group of folks that don’t care or don’t believe this is something serious and are willing to put their money and keester on the line and board an airliner with the attitude “damn the torpedoes full steam ahead”. Therefor the airlines are offering airplanes packed to the gills with folks from camp one. Therefore, the airlines know there is a certain segment that will live life this way…at least until they get it one way or another… of which most will survive ( at least through round one). For those who die as a result of this attitude, well, it’s only going to be fraction of the overall population, which I am sure will make their families, friends, employers, and lawyers happy and satisfied about Covid-19 risks being a such a small payment for overall economic health.

    All the airlines are doing is finding out how large camp one really is. They already know their business is a flying Petri dish. So they have no choice but go after that market of travelers who don’t care about Covid-19 making sure they promote or at least allow for those people to do what they damn well please. Airlines have to have airplanes flying with high load factors to stay in business. They will make their adjustments as they figure out how strong camp one is.

    How long will the US will stay afloat financially with camp one in predominant play? Or even less than predominant but still significant? In this case, Covid-19 will be the final arbiter with box score results in about six weeks. By that time the US population will be possibly conditioned to think 65K per day new infections is a cakewalk. 200K+ dead? What’s the big deal?

    It’s going to very expensive for any country who will not do what has to be done cooperatively. And will be expensive not only in buckolas but also in body counts.

    • Well Jim, it’s not exactly that clean clear cut between camps one and two. It’s more like a balancing act between the two. A balancing act between lies, half truths and political agendas. One has to make a decision between all of the information provided and then act upon it. I’ll be damned if I’ll let some jackass politician or scientist make a decision for me. Give me all of the information and I’ll decide for myself.
      As for commercial air travel post Covid, I haven’t traveled commercially for over 30 years for the exact reasoning most people post Covid choose not to travel. Terminals are nothing short of a cess pool of humanity and the aircraft they fly in just ups the concentration. No fricking thanks.

  9. Paul, You may remember me as we had breakfast at KVNC a few years back. In response to your experience at the dentist, according to the CDC the masks with the outflow valve are acceptable. The hygienist was wearing acceptable PPE as required. Here is the paragraph from the CDC site: An N95 respirator with an exhalation valve does provide the same level of protection to the wearer as one that does not have a valve. The presence of an exhalation valve reduces exhalation resistance, which makes it easier to breathe (exhale). Some users feel that a respirator with an exhalation valve keeps the face cooler and reduces moisture build up inside the facepiece. However, respirators with exhalation valves should not be used in situations where a sterile field must be maintained (e.g., during an invasive procedure in an operating or procedure room) because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the sterile field. Best regards and hope to see you again on the field, Stephen

      • Just to add a bit to Paul’s reply.

        If the hygienist has Covid-19, a mask with an exhalation valve will not protect her patients. Who, by definition, are up close with no mask and mouths wide open.

        If the hygienist is trying to protect herself from her no-mask, mouth-wide-open patients, she’s poorly-equipped. Generic CDC guidelines do not apply to dental practices. The CDC offers specific guidance for anyone looking down in the mouth for a living:

      • I am not saying it is best for you as a patient. I am saying the worker was in compliance, per the CDC on their site. As seen here, there are many schools of thought on this issue. I see 25 plus patients a day up close and personal. In order to save my livelihood I have accept the risk that I might catch this disease.

        • Actually, the worker was not in compliance with the CDC’s guidelines for dental procedures. (see link, above).

          As a coincidence, I took my daughter to the dentist the other day. They all had simple surgical masks in the office. But, during the actual checkup the dentist would then put an N95 mask (without exhalation valve) over the surgical mask, then don a clear faceshield. Fresh gloves as well. In addition, they had my daughter wash her hands and then rinse her mouth with a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution.

          All of these practices are mentioned in the CDC guidelines. Some may be of unknown efficacy (the mouth rinse, for example), but given the high risk of the dentist catching the disease, or worse spreading it to all their patients, these seem like reasonable and simple procedures to follow.


      For all you mask wearers (especially those of you who think wearing it outside is NOT stupid 🤦🏼‍♀️). I know I’m about to burst your “google doctor degree” bubble, but here goes nothing.
      So Masks?
      I am OSHA 10&30 certified. I know some of you are too. I don’t really know WHY OSHA hasn’t come forward and stopped the nonsense BUT I want to cover 3 things
      • N95 masks and masks with exhale ports
      • surgical masks
      • filter or cloth masks
      Okay, so upon further inspection, OSHA says some masks are okay and not okay in certain situations.
      If you’re working with fumes and aerosol chemicals and you give your employees the wrong masks and they get sick, you can be sued.
      • N95 masks: are designed for CONTAMINATED environments. That means when you exhale through N95 the design is that you are exhaling into contamination. The exhale from N95 masks are vented to breath straight out without filtration. They don’t filter the air on the way out. They don’t need to.
      Conclusion: if you’re in Target and the guy with Covid has a N95 mask, his covid breath is unfiltered being exhaled into Target (because it was designed for already contaminated environments, it’s not filtering your air on the way out).
      • Surgical Mask: these masks were designed and approved for STERILE environments. The amount of particles and contaminants in the outside and indoor environments where people are CLOGGING these masks very, VERY quickly. The moisture from your breath combined with the clogged mask will render it “useless” IF you come in contact with Covid and your mask traps it, YOU become a walking virus dispenser. Everytime you put your mask on you are breathing the germs from EVERYWHERE you went. They should be changed or thrown out every “20-30 minutes in a non sterile environment.”
      • Cloth masks: I can’t even believe I’m having to explain this, but here it goes. Today, three people pointed to their masks as they walked by me entering Lowe’s. They said “ya gotta wear your mask BRO” I said very clearly “those masks don’t work bro, in fact they MAKE you sicker” they “pshh’d” me. By now hopefully you all know CLOTH masks do not filter anything. You mean the American flag one my aunt made? Yes. The one with sunflowers that looks so cute? Yes. The bandanna, the cut up t-shirt, the scarf ALL of them offer NO FILTERING whatsoever. As you exhale, you are ridding your lungs of contaminants and carbon dioxide. Cloth masks trap this carbon dioxide the best. It actually risks your health, rather than protect it. The moisture caught in these masks can become mildew ridden over night. Dry coughing, enhanced allergies, sore throat are all symptoms of a micro-mold in your mask.
      -Ultimate Answer:
      *N95 blows the virus into the air from a contaminated person.
      *The surgical mask is not designed for the outside world and will not filter the virus upon inhaling through it. It’s filtration works on the exhale, (Like a vacuum bag, it only works one way) but likely stops after 20 minutes, rendering it useless outside of a STERILE ENVIRONMENT (correct Becky, they don’t work in a bar, not even a little bit).
      *Cloth masks are WORSE than none. It’s equivalent to using a chain link fence to stop mosquitos.
      The CDC wants us to keep wearing masks. The masks don’t work. They’re being used to provide false comfort and push forward a specific agenda. For the love of God, research each mask’s designed use and purpose, I bet you will find NONE are used in the way of “viral defense.”
      Just like EVERY Flu season kids, wash your hands. Sanitize your hands. Don’t touch stuff. Sanitize your phone. Don’t touch people. And keep your distance. Why? Because your breath stinks, your deodorant is failing, your shoes are old and stink, that shirts not clean, & I like my space. Trust me I can hear you from here. Lots of reasons to keep your distance and work on body hygiene. But trust me, the masks do not work.
      *Occupational Safety & Hazard Association sited.
      The top American organization for safety.
      They regulate and educate asbestos workers, surgical rooms, you name it.
      I know, facts suck. They throw a wrench into the perfectly (seeming) packaged pill you are willingly swallowing. Facts make you have to form your OWN OPINION, instead of regurgitating someone else’s, and I know how uncomfortable that makes a lot of you. If your mask gives you security, by all means wear it. Just know it is a false sense of security and you shouldn’t shame anyone into partaking in such “conspiracies.”
      If select politicians stopped enforcing it, no one would continue this nonsense.

      • “The bandanna, the cut up t-shirt, the scarf ALL of them offer NO FILTERING whatsoever. As you exhale, you are ridding your lungs of contaminants and carbon dioxide. Cloth masks trap this carbon dioxide the best.”

        How can a mask simultaneously offer no filtering, yet trap carbon-dioxide? Molecules of carbon-dioxide are literally a thousand times smaller than a virus.

        Even the simplest mask performs the basic function it’s supposed to do – limit the spread of one’s breath. Breath that contains viruses. Will air (and viruses) get through? Sure, but they’re significantly slowed down and don’t travel nearly as far.

        Don’t believe me? Try this simple test – try blowing out a candle while wearing a mask. You might be able to do it, but you have to get a lot closer and blow harder.

        That’s why simple masks work – they keep people who have Covid-19 (and don’t know it) from easily spreading the virus. Combine that with maintaining distance, washing hands, avoiding crowds, etc., all of which provides a ‘defense in depth’. No one step is a silver bullet. But combining them provides the best current protection that is easily and cheaply available.

  10. Death rates, no matter how they are counted, may end up being a small portion of the total morbidity left behind in the wake of SARS-CoV2.

    Researchers have determined that the virus preferentially attaches to endothelial cells lining the inner surface of blood vessels. That gives the it direct access to every organ – previously, the lungs were assumed to be the target and morbidity mostly limited to the pulmonary system. We’re discovering that this infection precipitates many (perhaps thousands) of microscopic clots in highly vascularized organs like the kidneys, lungs, liver and, possibly, the brain where they can inflict substantial damage.

    None of this was apparent during the early stages of the pandemic when victims were mostly elderly, morgues were overflowing, forensic pathology was behind the curve and everyone assumed SARS-CoV2 behaved like other corona viruses. Now, with more data, higher survival rates and a younger infected cohort to study, the lingering effects of this viral pathology are emerging in survivors.

    It is too early to guess how many COVID-19 survivors will experience longer term morbidity, or what will be its effect on their life expectancy, chronic disability and the associated costs. But what is now known about the microbiology of this disease is not a cause for optimism – for the old or the young.

  11. Thanks largely to “freedom fighters” and naive youth, infections in the USA are exploding. A result is that American travelers are now banned from entering most other countries. International airline travel is dead until this situation changes. Domestic business travel likewise until airliners and boarding procedures are modified in such a way as to demonstrably reduce infection risk to near-zero. Load factors will go down and prices will go substantially up. Barring some sort of medical miracle vaccine (and even then if anti-vaxxes convince enough people not to take it), the age of plentiful and cheap airline travel is over.

  12. Larry S…I realize you have copied and pasted an “OSHA expert” and may not reflect your own opinions. However, it is another brick in the wall defending against masking, social distancing, and simply staying out of indoor concentrations of people.

    What is missing from this “expert’s” argument is not filtering capability in highly toxic environments like a surgical room, paint booth, or chemical warfare…it is simply stopping exhaled water vapor/moisture that results from normal conversation. This means, cloth or paper masks, bandanas, and mouth/nose coverings even made from Betsy Ross’s flag is effective enough. Stop or minimize that conversational or close quarter encounter/exchange by masking in addition to stayIng at least 6 feet apart, and washing one’s hands when forced to touch what many others touch demonstrably minimizes the transmission of Covid-19. Avoiding indoor concentrations of people combined with above is the only way to avoid getting this disease until a therapeutic or vaccine is produced. This is not rocket science and does not cost a lot of money.

    We now have daily data to show that when these simple steps are debated then ignored, the results are catastrophic community rates of infection. Already, in those areas whose populations have thrown off all restraints and now have a so called open economy, the infections rates are going off the charts.

    The economy does not determine health. The US, the wealthiest economy in the world has had a history of poor over all health. We have become experts in managing diseases. Disease management is very expensive. And all of us having paying a huge financial price for years. The lack of health determines the economy. And if a disease shows up that cannot be managed, it destroys the economy while destroying people. The largely already sick US population with existing but so far manageable diseases are now faced with an unmanageable virus that takes advantage of the existing managed diseases and uses that dynamic to systematically gain access to the entire body. And simple , inexpensive ways of staving off getting this so far, unmanageable virus is under constant attack by “ experts” advocating no restraints whatsoever.

    Amazing we are still debating this.

    • Very good further in-depth analysis of the current American social dysfunction of fundamental narcissism and vice-signaling – the behavioral acting out of malice and cruelty toward the weak and vulnerable among us.

      For those who have come to feel devalued, degraded, left behind, or cast aside, being asked (or told, like the FAA does often with regulations) to hide one’s face must be the ultimate act of public cruelty. There’s a poisonous delusion that unless we are being seen acting out rugged individualism and can express it in our emotions via our faces, we don’t even exist.

      Evidently, many of us have come to believe that each of us is only as important as our ability to be seen and heard, and the mask must make that erasure complete to these deluded souls ranting about a false freedom – of that which ironically enslaves them.

      “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

      ~ Albert Einstein

    • Jim … yes, I copy/pasted that comment. My main point was that masks are not a panacea AND the N95 masks aren’t perfect with the check valve operating. Frankly, I’d go for the surgical type or a bandana first. I’d agree that having something over one’s orifaces vs nothing can’t be all bad. AND … tell me about “disease management.” I was just prescribed a drug that coss $650/mo retail. YIKES !!

    • Jim,

      I’d add to your comment that “filtering” is not the only mechanism by which non-woven and cloth barriers reduce the spread of airborne pathogens. When we exhale, the air stream we emit (in the transition range or fully-developed turbulence) can project a considerable distance before viscous dissipation saps its energy. Masks impose a tortuous flow path which effectively dissipates that energy and lowers the Reynolds number of exhaled flow, and the projected distance, to near zero – it’s a source of constant irritation for those of us in pharma who must wear a mask in cold rooms when that low energy moist exhaled air lingers near our face and fogs up our glasses.

      Masks are effective prophylaxes owing to a number of mechanisms. Some obvious, some subtle. And, yes, it’s amazing we are still debating this.

      • Thanks for the informed posts, Kim. I to can’t believe we are still debating this. The mask-not argument seems to be that if masks don’t protect 100 percent–and they don’t–they are therefore worthless.

        You might also explain that masks don’t work like sieves. The mechanisms are different, including electrostatic attraction that traps particles smaller than the mask’s porosity.

    • Sick people did not paralyze the economy. Government-ordered shutdowns did.
      Covid Theatre issues aside, people would be a lot more sanguine about the shutdowns, if those issuing the orders were not such demonstrable nincompoops.

      Deblasio is a prime example. His latest nonsensical edict proscribes ALL gatherings of more than 100 people – irrespective of distancing – UNLESS it’s a BLM gathering. His “rationale?” “BLM’s message is too important.” Who knew that a virus had political affiliations? BTW, Deblasio also has banned any event that makes use of a loudspeaker (again, with an exception for BLM events). Despite all of my years providing bleeding-edge technology for the entertainment industry, I never became aware that loudspeakers transmit viruses. Dumb old me.

      Just for context: I DO wear a mask when out in public. And my wife has been a dental hygienist since 1970. And you couldn’t pay me to get on an airliner.

      Stay healthy, everyone.

  13. No matter how anyone feels about how government is handling the current situation, there is supposed to be a general election coming up this November. Assuming that happens, that may tell the politicians what most people are willing to put up with, especially if some of these governors and local politicians get voted out of office!

  14. How often are the HEPA filters changed in the planes? Are there different ‘grades’ of filters? Does the plane use the same that is used in a hospital? Is there a warning process (a light as an example) that tells the airline when the filter is becoming ‘full’ or outdated? The next time I get on a plane, probably next year, I guess I should ask to see the logbook to see if the mechanic has made a notation. That should get me a cold stare.

  15. The writer states, “People looked at the numbers and the news and fled from airports and airliners in droves.”

    That’s certainly one possibility, but I believe the travel industry (not just airports and airlines) is the effect following the cause; most onsite meetings were canceled, therefore there was no reason to travel.

    Of course, the impact to the travel industry is the same either way, but it’s a critical distinction in understanding any possible recovery. Recovery of travel depends on recovery on onsite meetings. The restrictions have gone on long enough now that businesses have found alternative ways to deliver their services, and they are often more cost-effective and cause less stress on people. For example, prior to COVID-19, I typically was away from home for business purposes 170+ nights per year (for 22 consecutive years). I doubt very much I’ll even have 30 business travel nights away from home this year (23 so far).

    I’m only one data point, but I think this massive reduction in required business travel will likely never grow to the levels of pre-COVID-19.

    • My last business travel night away from home was 11 MAR 2020. All onsite meetings for anyone in our company have already been canceled until at least 01 JAN 2021, with many customers saying they will not allow onsite meetings until at least MAR or APR of 2021. This is the healthcare industry; people who know how impactful this virus can be.