The Mask Muddle

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Big shout-out here to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly for clarifying for me why I’m not flying on his airline. Or any other. Kelly had to walk back a statement he made last week in a congressional hearing that masks on airliners don’t add much to passenger or crew safety. To be fair, he had been asked if passengers would ever get on airplanes again without being required to wear masks. (Veering over to the wild side here, let me answer that by saying yes, of course they will.)

It didn’t help that Kelly later reported testing positive for COVID-19, but he later said his statement left the confused impression that he opposed masking. “The majority of our employees and customers have felt it has been an important layer of protection, and I certainly agree with that,” Kelly said later. I actually think he was launching a trial balloon and the fact it got so quickly torched kind of shows where people are on this issue.

Perish the thought that we have, you know, actual data to support Kelly’s statement, but I think he’s probably right. If what the industry says about filtered ventilation in airline cabins is true, then masks probably don’t offer meaningful risk reduction. But what does that even mean. “Not adding much” is not the same as adding nothing, so, logically masks may provide minimal and even moderate protection against infection. But how the hell would you know? What needs to happen is for some bright-eyed graduate epidemiologist to build a surveillance experiment to track this down. My college elective was Chinese history, so I don’t know if this is a doable thing, but I suspect it is.

Meanwhile, I’m not flying on airliners. And masking is the reason. It’s not ideological for me nor necessarily scientific, either. Nor risk based. My thought experiment after Kelly’s statement was that the quid is not worth the quo. I don’t mind wearing masks, but I don’t like it, either. Don’t like packing and carrying them, minding them, changing them or hauling around tubes of hand sanitizer. I’ve read the meta studies on masking and accept that it’s a weak to moderate mitigation, but a mitigation nonetheless. I’ll mask up in crowds, sometimes in stores or where I’m asked. Mostly I avoid those places so that’s the dual benefit of masks; if I don’t go where they’re needed, I’ve all but zeroed the risk. I don’t like mandates much—even for airliners—but I like laws against mandates even less.  

Regardless of your view on masking, we’ve constructed a kind of trip wire here. Right now, at least some of the rowdy behavior on airliners is due to mask mandates. Some people don’t accept that they should have to wear masks and they’re going to act up to demonstrate that. If they act up enough to provoke violence, such people belong in jail. Period. Being a flight attendant shouldn’t be a combat assignment. I might not like wearing a mask, but there’s zero chance I’ll get my panties twisted about it.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the mask mandate will be lifted. Then Phase Two of the games begin because it will, of course, become optional. My guess is, depending on COVID-19 prevalence, 60 or 70 percent of passengers will still use masks, setting up a natural tension between the masks and masks nots. I’m not far enough along the continuum to decide what I’ll do then. Start flying again with or without a mask? Not fly at all? Haven’t a clue.

If I look at these risks numerically, they’re quite low. Here in Florida, test positivity has been low for months, although it’s increasing. Other states—even with ones with high vaccination rates and mask mandates—are actually higher. My neighbor just returned from Hawaii where masking is close to universal and vaccination is required for entering the state. Hawaii’s current COVID-19 incidence is twice Florida’s rate, although both are low. For this reason, at least for now, I wouldn’t be nervous getting on an airliner unmasked.

Lost in all this is this fact: Airliners are the single most effective disease vector in the history of civilization. They’re fast, they go everywhere and we haven’t figured out what to do about it. We did once. The original SARS outbreak in 2003 was identified and rapidly contained thanks to broad international cooperation. Passenger flights doubled in the period between then and the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. The next pandemic might make COVID-19 look like the mild flu it definitely is not.

This is a challenge that aviation shows no sign of being ready to confront. And on that cheery note, I have nothing left other than to say Merry Christmas. The next one will be maskless. I’m sure of it.

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106 COMMENTS

    • Using the political trope of “COVID and all associated theater” to reference the 800,000 lives lost, the hard working doctors and nurses, the scientists busting their ass trying to combat this thing and the people who choose to get vaccinated or who take the simple step of wearing a mask during a pandemic, has become tiresome and is really kind of gross. Then, to assume the pandemic and the dead will be forgotten simply because a political party re-gains control of congress in an upcoming election is just dumb.

      • Sorry your feelings were hurt. I know disagreement with your opinion is a no-no. I don’t believe the gov. death count is accurate. Its been proven that even traumatic deaths were counted as covid deaths if a test at autopsy or prior to death revealed a positive result. Any mask short of a medical grade N95 is a decoration. “Science” has proven that. I chose to use common sense. States that locked down with strict mask mandates and states that didn’t, had essentially no difference in infection rates. We have known for a long time that this disease had a very low mortality rate and was most impactful in a limited demographic yet the same political ideology that argues men can give birth and gathering at a BLM protest and having an open border did nothing to spread the infection saw this as an opportunity to flood the country with trillions of dollars and make changes to government to increase the power of the ruling class. Just keep wearing your mask and listening to the fools with a D behind their names if that makes you feel safe.

      • Your rant certainly is a muddle.

        In quoting number of deaths you omit the huge collateral damage from lockdowns and bad modelling, including people dying waiting for surgery and from delayed diagnosis and treatment, people dying from mental anguish, lives shortened by the stress of job loss. Life is not just avoidance of disease.

        I do disagree with airlines filling centre seats, as people eat without mask.

        I point to the terminal as higher risk.

        Now we have a more contagious mutation of SARS2, but much lower risk of hospitalization according to experience in South Africa and UK.

        What’s needed is a focus on who is truly at risk from COVID-19 and INFLUENZA illnesses. People with deteriorated lungs of course, people with bad hearts (because COVID-19 is somewhat of a vascular disease as well and the heart supplies lungs with blood to absorbs oxygen and distributes it though your body). People with deficien immune systems such as from recent cancer treatment, organ transplant, and severe asthma. People with bad diet, such as anorexics and alcoholics. And some obese people because they swell more and often have a bad diet so body is weaker. And for INFLUENZA young children. (‘Old’ is not a risk factor per se, but older people tend to have serious health conditions and less resilience.)

        That is all well known, but panickers and gummint types evade that, instead forcing obsessive shotgun policies.

  1. There’s a meme that shows a guy putting a cyclone fence up around a swamp to hold the mosquitos in. Mask are like a cyclone fence to a virus. If air molecules can penetrate the fabric so can a virus.

    And on another related topic; How is it that the FAA can wave the whole industry of non-FDA approved products use but not an individual waiver for a controlled condition?

    Do Not Issue. AMEs should not issue airmen medical certificates to applicants who are using these ‘Classes of Medications’ or Medications:
    FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved less than 12 months ago. The FAA generally requires at least one-year of post-marketing experience with a new drug before consideration for aeromedical certification purposes. This observation period allows time for uncommon, but aeromedically significant, adverse effects to manifest themselves. Contact either your Regional Flight Surgeon or AMCD for guidance on specific applicants or to request consideration for a particular medication.
    https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/pharm/dni_dnf/

    • The normal ‘surgical’ masks sold to consumers block virus going through the mask, using a middle layer of non-woven material invented by 3M.

      They protect against direct impingement from coughing and sneezing.

      Problem with them is air leakage around the edges. Some people try closed-cell foam strip at top where nose is, pipe cleaners are too porus so not suitable.

      N95 masks seal much better. (Avoid ones with a vent valve, they are for other use. KF95 Korean spec is good, KN95 Communist Chinese masks are typically ill fitting.)

  2. Because 815,423+ (this morning’s count) fatalities are ever so much drama and makeup.

    Practical test: Go visit a hospital. They actually understand the science, can do the math, bother to get past their opinions, and see the fatalities rather than puffing up their own place on a digital stage at the expense of others’ lives. If you’re let in at all, you will wear masks. Period.

    “The original SARS outbreak in 2003 was identified and rapidly contained thanks to broad international cooperation.”

    Pity that the “Containment” phase was wasted by those who saw nothing but political gain in the problem – the Trump administration defunded the offices that could have identified, warned and created the cooperation that eventually emerged in other countries. Doubling down, their cronies created a political theater around even the simplest attempts at public health and created the astounding slogans linking “freedom” and a lethal disease. The history and legacy of this level of stupidity and avarice are inescapable and remain as a yellowed stain on the country.

    “If I look at these risks numerically, they’re quite low. Here in Florida, test positivity has been low for months, although it’s increasing. Other states—even with ones with high vaccination rates and mask mandates—are actually higher. ”

    This is preposterously bad – Florida, dismissing public health measures in the name of “freedom” and tourist income, has one of the highest infection rates in the country. Miami and Orlando particularly are seeing rates of new infection at 100+ cases – per day.

    I do hope Mr. Bertorelli’s grasp of practical aerodynamics is better than his uninformed opinions on the false correlation of mask mandates and infection rates, and his entitled dismay at actually considering public health measures rather than his own discomfort and inconvenience. Plagues and death continue whether or not they fit into your perspective.

    Unfortunately I’m sure this dog whistling will resonate with many – some of whom may still be alive for the moment – and that’s all that really counts on this digital stage, no matter the body count.

    • It’s like six months of Christmas with 90% of the fatalities occurring in the antivaxxers who also tend to vote for Hate. I couldn’t be happier.
      Bertinelli used to be an author I read and respected.

      • Mr Webber, I would advise looking in the nearest mirror, as an attitude like yours is quite indicative of hate in your own self. To be happy over the suffering and death of your political opponents is despicable. Also, I’d like to know where you get the 90% number you so cheerfully cite.

        And as to Thinkerer and his/her calculation of infection rates in Florida, I went and used New York Times numbers to find what the rate of new COVID infections are there and in New York City. The rate per 100,000 population is currently about 14 for Orange County, 61 for Miami-Dade County, (and only 7 where I live, in Brevard County), so “freedom” (as he likes to put that word in quotes, to mock it like a true totalitarian) isn’t turning out so bad as NYC’s 160, with its mask and vaccine mandates.

        At any rate, it’s amazing how we in this country have gone from a freedom-loving people to one who cry for safety at all cost, as if life is nothing more than mere stark existence. It’s very sad.

        • Widely quoted by medical facilities that most of the fatalities in recent months were of unvaccinated people. Try WA state for example.

          And try statistics showing vaccinated people are getting sick with Delta and Omicron mutations but not as severely thus are surviving.

          Mutations are confusing things, as Omicron is more contagious but not as severe, so causes fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

        • When evaluating those same statistics in anewly evolving infectious disease scenario, one must also look at the slope of the incidence and transmission curves, and if it’s usable, the test positivity curve. In 2 weeks, we can start to evaluate hospitalizations and about 3 weeks thereafter, deaths. But, early on, the first derivative of incidence is near vertical. That indicates a problem in the making that is unlikely to end in the next 3 days.

          • Perhaps not three days, but perhaps not three months, either. The data from South Africa reports sharp decrease in infections in a population which nearly 70 percent have had COVID. How that will play in the U.S is unknown, where more people are vaccinated.

    • > I might not like wearing a mask, but there’s zero chance I’ll get my panties twisted about it.

      I believe at least some of the friction comes not from passengers, but from flight crew getting THEIR panties twisted at even the slightest hint of disagreement with flight crew commands. I get the need to follow flight crew directions, especially in the case of emergencies, but EVERYTHING is an emergency to some. For example, on a recent trip my wife had lowered her mask to take a drink, but dropped the cap and was bending over to pick it up. A flight attendant happened to be walking past at the time told my wife to pull her mask up. My wife started to say she understood and was just picking up the cap to the water bottle before taking a drink, but the flight attendant didn’t give even let her speak. Instead, the flight attendant leaned over me so she could stick her finger under my wife’s nose while she loudly declared, “UNLESS THAT WATER BOTTLE IS TOUCHING YOUR LIPS THAT MASK IS COVERING YOUR MOUTH AND NOSE; YOU GOT IT?” The flight attendant’s reaction was so over-the-top absurd the wife and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

      It was funny to us, but we were completing a relaxing vacation with the grandkids. I imagine someone in a bad mood might not take that kind of treatment very well.

      • I love my mask and the 6ft space from the person next to me.

        I wear a mask in defiance to both the pro-mask and anti-maskers.

        Black neck gator pulled up, ballcap pulled low, wrap around sunglasses, hoodie and paints; I have never enjoyed such anonymity in my life…and for some reason, folks still respect my 6ft space. Loving it.

        Leave the cell phone behind and pay with cash and I’m really upsetting the boat.

    • Correct, sir. I’ll not engage in the politics but the factual statements and those dealing with the public health aspects are correct.

      For me, this isn’t political, it’s public protection. Masks work. Physical distancing works, high-turnover airflow (as on big aircraft) works. All of these and more constitute a layered defense, in depth, that works to a greater extent. The overall result is greater than the sum of the parts.

      And, to put a point on something I know will draw ire, vaccinations work, and at least with Omicron, prior infection offers almost no protection from repeat infection.

      This is not political. It’s my rather professional opinion having read the various research studies myself. Not obtained from CNN, OAN, Fox, ABC, AP or Reuters. I’ve actually read the study results and made my own interpretations of their findings based on years of clinical and resee

      • Being an aviation publication, I’d have hoped for more evidence-based comments. Masks don’t “work” for the control of an airborne respiratory virus in real people in real populations and never have. “Physical distancing”, at least by the entirely arbitrary and evidence-free 6’ doesn’t work. High turnover airflow, like on virtually every turbine-powered airplane, does work — at least a little.

  3. Some years ago from random news reports of the perennial flu going around, there were snapshots of people from around the world, notably Japan and other Asian nations, wearing masks. Every winter when the seasonal flu arrives, Asians don disposable masks. They think nothing of it and my guess is it became a custom in the midst of highly populated areas, packed trains and in the urban areas. For them, it’s a health issue.

    Paul, you’re thoughts on this world wide pandemic is clear. However, perhaps you’re taking a blind eye to Florida health stats in regards to covid-19, the delta variant and now omicron especially with a governor muzzling one person compiling stats on Florida’s pandemic spread, police search warrant in hand to confiscate her personal computer if she possessed any copy of the state’s pandemic stats. Gov DeSantis attempted to forbid cruise lines from mandating masks and vaccinations but lost in court. Cruise ship business is a money maker for Florida but not under his command to rule over a health issue. Do you really believe Florida has low rates of covid-19 in the midst of nonsensical people taking ivermectin and now bathing in baking soda? I’m from the Big Apple, NYC and haven’t read of New Yorkers taking ivermectin. Bathing in baking soda however is another matter.

    • Throughout this pandemic, my primary tell has been hospitalization rates. I have two friends inside two different Florida hospital systems. Since about September, they report hospitalized patients from COVID have dropped substantially. In the spring, it was almost 50 percent for one system; it’s now 0.1 as of this week. Increasing slightly.

      New York’s mortality rate is 3055/M, Florida’s is 2903/M. Essentially the same. The point being that Florida’s lower vaccination rate and lack of mitigations has produced overall similar results. The current snapshot has New York (and Hawaii’s) infection rates much higher than Florida’s. I think this is a fluke of climate and population density more than anything else, because I agree that Florida’s overall mitigation has been weak, politicized and chaotic.

      While I too suspected the state was cooking the numbers, I don’t believe that now because I have direct visibility into hospitalizations. If these numbers are being suppressed, where are the hospitalizations? I’m sure they’ll rise as the snowbirds flock back into town, but personally, I’m now at the point of taking certain precautions where and when I can, but not being paralyzed. It’s increasingly obvious we may have to live with this virus for quite some time to come. Being vaccinated/boosted, I view the risk as lower than I did a year ago.

      • Hospitalizations lag infection and case detection often by up to 3 weeks. Waiting for those would put us, again, behind the power curve. I’m assuming that, in an aviation group that would have some important context.

        DeSantis employed monoclonal antibodies liberally to prevent death in Delta, which proved very useful but considerably more expensive than non-pharmaceutical interventions like masks, physical distancing, self-isolation when known exposed or feeling ill, and hand hygiene. Monoclonal antibodies are not showing efficacy currently against Omicron.

        My sources within hospital systems tell me they’re starting to see increases. Pediatric hospitals are seeing surges. Within the last week, at least one southwestern state has had no more than 8 ICU beds available at any given time.

        Florida’s numbers are starting to look like they’re in an exponential growth phase.

        In public health, we look at statistics and apply worst-case scenarios consistent with the numbers we’re seeing. If we were not so conservative (little ‘c’ folks) in our estimates, we would often be fatally late in developing mitigations that are actually useful rather than wishful. Public health personnel and especially the epidemiologists are all pessimists. We can be pleasantly surprised but we’re rarely disappointed. Except when we issue our best possible advice and someone (or some group) ignores it because our science-based work doesn’t match their preconceived notions.

        We are likely to have to live with COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 for a long time but we’re not yet to the endemic state yet, where everyone who could be infected has been.

    • Using Japan as an example of mask effectiveness is useful. Japanese have been wearing masks for 70+ years. Their rate of influenza infection was consistently higher than the U.S. until they started an aggressive vaccination campaign ~15 years ago. SARS-CoV-2 virus is the same size, transmitted the same way as flu. Masks don’t “work” in real people in real populations for the control of an airborne respiratory virus and never have.

  4. “ I don’t mind wearing masks, but I don’t like it, either. Don’t like packing and carrying them, minding them, changing them or hauling around tubes of hand sanitizer.” who does like this!?! No one!! At least I haven’t met anyone relishing this reality. Somehow anti-mask folks feel the rest of us just love wearing masks! That’s crap! It’s actually done to pull together and try to beat this disease no matter how small the incremental gain. And it’s not just mask wearing. But hand washing and avoiding large gatherings etc. Akin to the war effort in the 40s: no one was keeping their lights on in the Eastern seaboard because it was their freedom to do so. Frankly today’s freedom ringers are like temper-tantrum-two-year olds who don’t realize their being played by social media abusers.

    • There’s more than just “I wear a mask and like it” and “I don’t wear a mask and don’t like it”. Of the ones that do wear a mask, there are varying degrees of tolerance, and I’m definitely on the lower end of the tolerance spectrum. To say “no one likes wearing them” simplifies it more than the reality of it actually is.

  5. In the US people don’t want to sit next to someone shouting into their cellphone the entire flight.

    I’d say a lot don’t want to sit for hours next to a stranger who makes them uncomfortable, and potentially puts their health at risk.

    The airlines might be right about airflow, but they lost the public trust with cramped seating, fees and lame excuses for refunds. People think they are now just out to pack a plane despite covid.

    Even with omicron spread around the world in less than a month, for some reason we don’t hear about cross-contamination of others on flights any more. Does it still happen or has the govt given up on contact tracing because no one cooperates?

  6. Trust me…mask or no mask, you don’t want to fly right now anyhow. And I say that after experiencing the flight attempt from hell earlier this week, a combined cluster “F” by both SWA and the LGB terminal. I decided to use LGB (I used to be a controller there) instead of LAX and its usual big mess. But at LGB all the SWA flights were running about 2 hours late. My arrival plane finally landed, but had to sit on the ramp, no gate, for one hour while those arriving passengers waited and sweated. The plane at my needed gate was finally slowly loaded with its passengers. But then several trolleys of not yet loaded baggage showed up and a lone, not motivated baggage loader did the duty. One bag at a time, then saunter over to get one more, consider it, and finally place it on the conveyer belt. All the while the plane of now loaded passenger waited, and my plane sat out on the ramp. A Captain, the one who was waiting to command my waiting flight, stood near me twiddling his thumbs also. I approached him and said it sucked, what we were watching. He said, “yep, only a few years until retirement and can’t wait. No ramp help because no one will apply. And you see what we get when we do hire someone”. He said in the Weed legal states it’s especially bad, because practically no applicant can pass the drug screen. He said in the old days, he would go out and sling some bags if needed. But now if he touched a bag, both unions would have his ass. Oh, and I see in today’s news that UAL and DAL have announced several hundred cancellations for Christmas Eve. Mask, no mask, it all sucks. Sorry, I still had a pent up need to rant. Oh yea, after a feared missed connection in AUS, no worry there. My SWA flight there was going to be an hour late also. Home by 2 am.

  7. Don’t begrudge each of us the choice we make based on our circumstances. Mask or no mask doesn’t make one wrong or right – it’s a choice we’re now able to make as we have vaccines available and plenty of other medications to reduce the impact of the virus. If not mandated, make up your own mind what you’re going to do and don’t hold it against others who decide otherwise. We don’t know all their circumstances and we can give them the grace to decide what’s best for themselves.

    • As usual those in the ‘it’s a personal choice’ camp fail to see that our decisions affect each other, worldwide. Same with climate change. Frankly if you don’t vax, then your insurance shouldn’t kick in and you should be liable for costs incurred.

      • Well, when they develop a vaccine that doesn’t kill people, I’ll think about it. In the meanwhile, I’m happily walking around with my antibodies (the purpose of a vaccine) from my Covid infection.

  8. Paul is correct, ordinary disposable masks are known to have some benefit for reduction of transmission of COVID-19 (and all other diseases with airborne transmission).

    But, it is important to distinguish between ordinary disposable masks and the much more effective N95 disposable respirator (sold in your local big box home/hardware store), also often called a “mask”. If you want a higher level of protection, use an N95. This class of respirator was unavailable to the general public during the first 18 months of the pandemic. They are back on shelves, now. They cost about a buck or two each and can be re-used for several weeks (typically until the straps fail).

    If you think COVID is a hoax, I suggest you try to find a hospital bed in Pima County, Arizona, where the number of COVID cases occupying hospital beds has led to implementation of “Crisis Levels of Care.” That means that citizens with illnesses typically resulting in hospitalization are being told to stay home. Sounds real to me.

  9. Merry Christmas Paul, I’m choosing to stay off of the airliners also. I’m not as optimistic as you are however. Don’t think things will ever be the same. I have no problem wearing a mask for a couple hours if it makes a certain group of people feel secure, but I do not like the way we are treated in the terminal. I’ll rent a Cessna or drive instead. No desire to leave the country either.

  10. This will sound strange. To stop covid transmission, stop talking. In the research I have read, very little covid spread is attributed to airliners. The theory is that people don’t talk much on aircraft. I flew millions of miles on airliners and sat next to thousands of people. Call me antisocial but I can count on two hands the number of conversations I had with a seatmate. The virus is spread in water droplets. Those water droplets are released and sent in the air when people speak. As we know, the air in an airliner is very dry and the water droplets evaporate quickly leaving no transport for the virus.

    Also, there is some evidence to suggest that the air exchange systems on airliners do reduce the transmission of airborne viruses. There is a study where an airliner did multiple hops to several airports. After the first hop, no covid cases were reported. During the second hop, the airliner had to sit on the tarmac and the crew reduced or turned off air circulation. Several people from that flight got covid.

    Handing out Zicam or an iodine nasal wash and taking a couple of snorts before flight would eliminate the virus in one’s nose and throat and eliminate the spread. There is a lot of evidence to support this one.

    I do wonder why a simple ultraviolet light cleaner cannot be added to an air exchange system on an airliner.

  11. Funny part is, most of you posting short replies are opaque as to your intent — in your quest for brevity, you’ve managed to remove all meaning from what you write. I can’t tell if you agree, disagree, or are whingeing about something else entirely!

  12. ” Being a flight attendant shouldn’t be a combat assignment.” – I think I’m in love with Kim, the FA in the phlegm commercial, who can hip-check yahoos into the lav and flush them out the belly for a rapid descent to an arbitrary destination. Yeah, we need more like her.

  13. If you can smell flatulence or bacon through a mask, what makes you think it’ll protect you from a virus?

    You say MY mask protects YOU from my cough/sneeze particles when I cough/sneeze? Well, if I’m that sick, shouldn’t I just stay home? Think! The mask has done nothing more than to give sick people cover to go out into public. How does that help?

    The mask is two things, and two things only:
    1 – Virtue signaling
    2 – A symbol of submission

    The mask mandate, the shot mandate, and so-called “shot passports” need to go away immediately! (Yes, I’ve been shot – Pfizer x 3.) That includes on any modern airliner where, thanks to the technology involved, the air is cleaner and safer than almost anywhere else inhabited by mankind.

    Leave me alone!

    • Well said Blaine. If people want to get a vaccine have at it. It should be a personal decision , not a political mandate unless we live in a fascist regime. What other mandates based on constantly changing data will Joe come up with. And when is Joe going to give us an update on his old buddy Corn Pop ? Wishing you a blessed Christmas Blaine.

    • Your comment about masks being ineffective is empirically false. Even paper masks offer some protection for wearers. Further, not every person shedding virus actually knows they are infected. Finally, N95 “masks” are protective of the wearer and others.

    • Sorry Blaine, you are comparing apples & oranges. The smell of flatulence and bacon are chemical compounds (mostly H2S) that is molecular in size and can penetrate even N95 masks. If you want protection from such odors, you need an organic filter media within an N95 level mask to chemically bond with, and trap, the chemicals. The virus is a living organism that relies on a ride within a moisture droplet to survive the trip. That droplet is many orders of magnitude larger and can mostly (but not always) be trapped by a mask. I agree with you that people who are sick should stay home. And, my preferred mode of aerial transportation is my Cessna Cardinal.

  14. The fuel is run through a filter before it enters the fueling truck. So why do we even need a fuel filter in the engine? I look at masking the same way. If you wear an N95 mask it may just keep you from picking up a covid viral load that your immune system can’t handle. The absurdity of the masking question is that it usually is based on what a person’s political persuasion is.

    • I don’t know a single person who is opposed to people having the right to choose to mask up. The bigger factor is whether I am required to add an additional filter for my respiratory system (or my fuel system). We should all be for choice in modern society and aviation.

  15. Paul,

    Your comment that we’ll “of course” get back to not wearing masks on airliners goes directly against what Dr. Fauci said earlier this week. As long as he is given the power he currently has there will be masks on airliners and all other federally-regulated public transportation forever.

    I realize you’re in Florida where much of the federal mandates are being flatly ignored. For the other half of the country with more mandate-happy governments in charge there is no end in sight to masks. Oregon is a prime example as they are considering making indoor masks permanent.

    Also, I see very little friction caused by those, such as yourself, who choose not to wear masks where they aren’t mandated…

  16. Thinkerwhatever is clearly an anti Trumper. It should be clearly pointed out that Trump et.al. were being advised by Anthony Fauci and Trump was doing and saying exactly what Fauci was telling him and he is still the presidential mouthpiece and still making continuous mistakes. Biden has first condemned everything Trump/Fauci said and did and later said and did most of the same things. Things were mishandled out of ignorance but the great thinker also left out that the Chinese were the real bad folks in all this, not Trump.

  17. Reviewing the air circulation on airliners mentioned above https://publishing.aip.org/publications/latest-content/your-seat-on-public-transportation-determines-level-of-exposure-to-exhaled-droplets/

    I’d like to see a similar diagram for most GA cabins. On most turboprops and pressurized piston aircraft, the pressurized air comes in the front of the cabin and out the rear–leaving pilots relatively unexposed–and aft passengers most exposed. In most bizjets with aft-mounted engines, the air flow is IN from the rear and overhead, and OUT in the nose–leaving the pilots MOST exposed.

  18. It has always struck me how people in one of the most regulated professions in the world don’t like rules!

    My dad flew for American until retirement, but hated rules & regulations – he would be against masks, etc. (I’m sure) if he was still alive.

    As for masks, it’s simple physics – any barrier between my body & COVID-19 is a good thing. If masks don’t work, why do people in ORs wear them?

    I’m finally finishing up my PPL (started in 1969) – so I’m grinding thru the FARs…

  19. Back in the day, the airlines had a smoking section in the rear of the plane. For those that want to wear a mask and sit with like minded people they should all get a seat in the back. For those that want to go without a mask and accept their own risks and responsibility they should seat with like minded people in the front.
    Now for those that don’t like sitting in the back with like minded people all wearing masks we can have them sit in the front if they fly on the odd days of the month. There: It’s all up to each of us to make their own choice.
    Glad I am retired and don’t have to put up with all the nonsense going on today. I like driving and stopping every 200 miles to see a museum or another town. Don’t care how long it takes me to get there. And finally I get to spend Christmas at home instead of flying people all over the Country to be with their families. Now I get to be with mine after 35 years.
    Merry Christmas to all of the flight crews that are working this Christmas.

  20. Does anybody contributing to this discussion think that they would be doing so if this were 1951? Those who survived it got through WW II following the lawful orders of those who had been assigned a position of authority (as in FA authority) superior to theirs. Period. Full Stop.

    This bravo sierra that espouses “rights” to do whatever you want is just another variation of the anarchy we saw in the streets of PDX and the halls of congress on January 6. No difference.

    • We didn’t have mentally ill leaders in 1951 arguing that biology is a social construct and that measures to prevent the spread of infection was mandated for church gatherings but not required for liberal protests like we do today. Your point is moot based on the insanity of people in power now. You can follow these fools in “authority” if you wish, I’ll take my chances elsewhere.

        • Not at all. Im simply stating a fact. You are foolish to put your health and personal safety into the decisions of those that argue that men can give birth and that open borders and mass protest have no impact on the spread of an infection that they argue requires eating establishments to close and churches to cancel services. Saint Fauci stated in an interview that sex between strangers was fine at the beginning of the pandemic but that schools and churches had to close.

    • Am I the only one who has noticed that in almost every case, including here, people who use the “Period. Full Stop” crap to try to end any further discussion have just made some ridiculous statement that cries out for refutation?

      Knowing, cherishing and exercising one’s rights is not anarchy, it’s freedom, as much as you and your ilk hate that whole idea. This country was founded by people who could see when an “order” from a person “assigned a position of authority” didn’t necessarily remove their right to do something different. So, yes, I pretty much DO have the right to do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t stop YOU from doing whatever you want. You doing whatever you want doesn’t include unduly restricting ME from my own reasonable activities. That’s not a right YOU have, or ever will have if I’m around you.

      I don’t know about the rest of you, but I didn’t sign away my rights the day someone I don’t like was “elected” president. I’m not in the military. Non-elected bureaucrats don’t have the authority to suspend any of my rights, any more than they can “stop the spread” of a virus.

      Actually, nothing really can do that. As individuals, we can do many things to mitigate, but not eliminate, our own risks, but we don’t have the right to inflict upon others our unreasoned fears, and to restrict the activities of other people who in almost all cases pose no risk to those around them. Especially in an airplane, provably one of the safest environments on the planet.

      If people are free to gather in huge, dense crowds, unmasked and unvaccinated and riot all across the US, burn down buildings, break windows and hurt, maim and kill people in support of a Marxist cause, but we can’t eat peacefully in a restaurant then this is NOT about the virus anyway.

      It’s about CONTROL.

      Freedom does, indeed, include the right to disregard unreasonable restrictions imposed without legal authority by others.

      I chose to get the vaccine, because I decided it was a reasonable precaution. For me, not for others. But NO ONE has the right to require me to get one, nor to require you to get it.

      If your vaccine doesn’t protect you, and your mask doesn’t protect you, who the hell gives you the right to require me to get a vaccine, or wear a mask, that doesn’t work for you? NO ONE. And as the US Supreme Court has said, “a law repugnant to the constitution is void.” (Marbury v. Madison, 1803)

      So, with all due respect (not much), take your illegal mandates, and your “This discussion is over because I say so” BS attitude and stuff them.

      • Thank you for explaining your viewpoint, which seems to be that elected officials cannot issue mandates. Only legislated mandates are legal. Would that also apply to a situation where a public safety officer, such as a policeman or fireman, told someone to do something or refrain from doing something that would be generally understood to cause harm or death to that person or to others?

        My perspective on mask wearing hinges on another principle. It seems that mask wearing reduces illness, which in turn, reduces hospitalizations, and reduces the cost of illnesses as well as not putting health service providers under extra demand. So, to my way of thinking, if my behavior benefits others, even if only a little, it’s a worthwhile undertaking.

        Somehow, taking a constitutional stand over wearing a mask seems minor in comparison, for example, to taking a constitutional stand over something possibly more important, like ensuring that I can vote and that my vote is counted.

        • History is full of examples of heads of governments, heads of state, and dictators of countries who under the guise of an “emergency”, issue mandates, orders, or other dictates that eventually suspend then end all human rights of that country. Something I’m sure the writers of our constitution knew that could happen and therefore did not allow such declarations to be allowed.

  21. Sorry, Paul. You are incorrect. Airplanes are NOT the most effective disease vector known to man. The mosquito has that honor, and children are number two. That makes airplanes number 3. Fact: (This may really blow you away) – One half of ALL humans who have ever lived (probably on the order of 5 billion) died due to mosquito-borne illnesses. Read “The Mosquito” by Timothy Winegard if you need confirmation of this statement. And children are number two… because there are so many of them and they are incredibly efficient at spreading diseases since they have no concept of disease prevention until they reach an age to understand… and then often do not act responsibly anyway. I would also give credit to Gregory Wyatt for his second post above. He is 100% correct and on target with his statements in that post. BTW, I am a physician with Board Certification in 2 specialties and a Masters in Public Health degree. Among other things…

  22. FEAR BLINDS REASON: If the CDC or NIH or any one of their apparatchiks had clinically standardized protocol and peer reviewed studies that showed conclusive evidence that face masks provided a superior overall level of protection of transmission they’d be promoting that data. To this date there have only been proclamations of “the science” without proof, unless you accept anecdotal suggestions of likely benefit.
    Meanwhile “Covidians” and many others who just conform for whatever reason, without a modicum of skepticism demand mandates for all. Few if any even have the curiosity to actually do a cursory review of a few studies.

  23. RN, you are correct and we should be skeptical, whether or not it is supported by our confirmation bias of what is previously accepted. Additionally, so many institutions receive grant funding from not only from government but also foundations who are frequently seeking a prescribed outcome. Or as George Washington is credited with saying, “Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
    Mask acceptance is particularly easy for many because the visual appearance is plausible, for them why question it. Sadly, unquestioned compliance becomes habitual regardless of plausibility especially when non-compliance becomes threatening.

    • You sir have not been paying attention. Joe Biden stated outright that by electing him he would do just that. And the democratic congress have stated that by spending a few trillion more they can do the same.

  24. I won’t express my opinion on mask wearing since I have done so many threads before this one. What I will mention is what I have seen throughout the country in the pt135 and 91 trips I have flown. What I have noticed is most (except for the larger fractional operations) GA crews and passengers ignore the mask required signs, in the GA terminals and airplanes. Even when I was in the FBO at JFK, no one inside or out was wearing a mask. Most FBOs in Florida don’t even have the mask required signs on their entry doors anymore. The charter business has exploded in the past 18 months. Most charter operators have trouble keeping up with all the business. Several aviation publications have pointed out that the existing inventory of used business jets is at the lowest level ever. More persons than ever that have the money are buying their own jet to avoid airlining and the government mandates. I skydive and the drop zone I go to has not had any mask mandate, nor have I seen anyone wearing one on their own. Furniture movers from New York and California are reporting that they cannot keep up with demand with record numbers of moves out of those states with the strictest mandates. Sure high taxes and regulations had a big part of that but the mandates just pushed people over the edge to make those moves. This has been referred to as “mask fatigue” or “COVID fatigue”. Now we have the latest mutation which the South African medical authorities have said has less severe symptoms than the previous version. After 3 weeks when the new mutation was discovered, it was just reported last week the first known fatality to that latest mutation. That fatality rate is less than the common flu. People are getting tired of the two faced politicians and government medical officials who say one thing then ignore those mandates themselves. The legislature in my state has passed a law that any mandate issued by the governor can be overridden by the legislature. He has not issued any such mandates because he knows that will happen if he issues any. The comments by Gregory Wyatt are spot on about the next election. Sorry, I just had to mention that.

  25. Getting back to aircraft — the claims about air quality only stand if filters are changed very regularly — not as regularly as a passenger’s mask but nearly.
    But in the days before Covid this did not happen. There are photos out there of filters so old they turned black and were clogged not only with particles but self grown moulds and mushrooms.
    Of course the techs now run up and change the filters when required.
    Just that no one sees them….

  26. Well, one thing is certain. This article generated reader interest, which is what the internet is all about, isn’t it? We all have been “played” to some extent. We all have gotten riled up enough to spend time sharing our opinions–some of which have displayed significant denial of reality coupled to scientific and political ignorance. Ya wanna see yourselves in a new light? Go to Netflix and watch “Don’t Look Up”.

  27. Oh boy. You get to have your own opinions but you don’t get to have your own facts. Use a standard search engine (eg, Google Scholar or PubMed) and cross “mask” with “COVID”. Read the studies. Then cross “aircraft” with “COVID”. Read the studies. I have, it’s my job.

    You can have whatever politics you want. But, respiratory protection and aerosol physics are fields with a 100 year history. Industrial hygienists, ventilation engineers and environmental health specialists know something.

    After you actually read the literature (and take off the political blinders), you will learn that masks work to reduce the transmission of airborne respiratory diseases and that higher quality masks (e.g., N95) are more effective than low-tech masks (simple paper or cloth).

    Not a one if you wants to sit next to a person with untreated multiple drug resistant tuberculosis who isn’t wearing a mask. Why should I have to sit next to a person with COVID who isn’t wearing a mask?

    • I’ll keep this rolling, I could also find a dozen research peer reviewed papers stating that anything other than a fit tested surgical mask is a waist of time. Example; wearing underwear reduces the impact of a fart to the inside of your pants but doesn’t leave them unscathed. Unfortunately, farts and airborne spread respiratory illnesses are different. The “residue” is what spreads the illness. As one who believes common sense always outweighs educated foolishness, neck gators, surgical masks, bandanas, trendy logo embossed face coverings, etc, do very little if anything to actually prevent the aerosol spread of covid and we haven’t even touched on the issue of ill fit and careless use of these items. We certainly would see a greater infection rate in similar demographics in states/locals that did not require masks if masks (as described above) truly impacted the spread. Remember, we are seeing “studies” that report that dumping trillions more into the economy will have no impact on inflation and the national debt.

      • I guess you get the last word. Writing things that sound good to you or “make sense” to you doesn’t make them fact. Flatulence and economic studies have nothing to do with aerosol physics. But, hey, if it makes you feel good…

    • Before I wrote this, Fred, I did the very search you specified and there is no research answering my exact question which is: do masks provide a meaningful risk reduction over the high volume HEPA ventilation airliners provide? I was was looking for validation of Gary Kelly’s claim. I don’t think it exists.

      The closest thing is the DoD/DARPA study that basically concluded it’s pretty hard to get infected on an airliner.

      https://federalnewsnetwork.com/dod-reporters-notebook-jared-serbu/2020/10/dod-study-suggests-its-very-hard-to-contract-covid-19-on-an-airplane/

      As for mask usage in general, there’s plenty to support its efficacy. People who still argue that the virus is smaller than the pores of the mask–talking N95/KN95 here–are just willfully ignorant.

      • Paul, I have no doubt that you are correct. The research would be hard (if not impossible) to do, of course. Comparing COVID infection rates among passengers on non-mask mandate flights to infection rates among passengers on mask mandate flights isn’t feasible (as well as the problem of controlling all of the other factors, such as COVID rates at the flight’s originations).

        To venture a guess, I strongly suspect that there are micro-environments in the aircraft cabin where ventilation is substantially poorer than in other locations in the cabin. Not easy to pin down. The safe action is to require masks until the overall hazard has passed. It’s what would be done in a society where protecting people with simple measures matters more than scoring political points.

      • How many people have you seen wear masks in football stadiums both pro and college? Shoulder to shoulder no masks (or clothes for that matter) over a hundred thousand in many cases screaming their brains out every Saturday and Sunday since September. The ultimate Petri dish. Where was the super spreader event. You know we all would have heard about it if it occurred. It never happened. Well over tens of millions of people piled into stadiums every weekend since September and nothing. Not a peep and not a mask in sight. How difficult is this to figure out?

  28. Well … ya really stirred to pot THIS time, PB !! And, on Christmas, too 🙁
    I see you’re now up to 81 replies. WOW! That MIGHT be an all time high?

    I see you added a great cartoon to the header … it’s appropriate to the discussion as well as the comment by William Bellinger. Like in the ‘old days,’ want to wear a mask … sit in one section and let the non-maskers sit in another … OR, fly on separate days. Since I retired 15 years ago, MY incidence of colds and flu symptoms drastically decreased because I wasn’t around co-workers with kids who brought those same medical problems home to them from school. SO … NOT flying might well be the best idea.

    In fact, given the deep concern by the tree-hugging crowd over emissions from airliners … why the hell are we even having this discussion? Ground all the airliners and … POOF! … problem solved and we save the planet in the process. And THEN … the FAA can claim 100% safety achieved, too. Wow … a triple hitter.

    I’ve vax’ed, I try to keep my distance from people but I don’t wear a mask (in FL or WI). I’ll be damned if some unelected bureaucrat is gonna make an ILLEGAL rule to require me to. Laws come from the Congress … NOT unelected bureaucrats with political agendas. (KONTROL!) I’ll make my own decision. And if that makes YOU uncomfortable … stay the hell away from me when you see me unmasked. When I see a solo driver in a car by his/herself … I KNOW we’ve arrived at the point of insanity on the issue. In fact, a while back I saw a woman walking her dog in the middle of nowhere and not only did SHE have a mask on … SO DID THE DOG!!

    Frankly, reading and re-reading all the comments … I give the “win” to Ron … whose comments reflect MY position on the subject.

    Merry Christmas to all who inhabit this wonderful aviation based web page. Thanks PB, et al.
    Ho Ho Ho

  29. All this teeth-gnashing reminds me of a line from an old Simon and Garfunkle song; “But a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.

    Merry Christmas to you, Paul B., and you, Larry S. Hope to see you in the spring at Sun ‘n Fun, masks or not. 😉

  30. One of my fellow EAA chapter members died of Covid last month. He was fully vaccinated, which only reminds us that there’s no sure thing. No one knows where and how he was exposed, but if he hadn’t been exposed he would still be alive. Or if the person who passed him the virus hadn’t been exposed, or if the person who passed the virus to that person, or if…

    It’s all statistical. Masks and vaccination (especially vaccination!) reduce the spread of the virus. Which reduces the percentage of people walking around carrying the virus. Which reduces the chance of getting exposed in your travels. Which reduces your chance of getting sick and dying – regardless of what precautions you’re exercising yourself.

    Exercising your “freedom” to not mask, or to not get vaccinated, helps the spread of the virus and increases the chance that someone else, who you do not know and probably will never hear from, will die.

  31. Well,tis the season,so to quote the fellow whose birthday many people are celebrating,”judge not and be not judged”.And try telling a Mother her child is is second only to the mosquito in spreading disease.She takes care of them day and night and never gets sick.

  32. In keeping with my previous post to stay away from my opinion on mask wearing, I will point out several facts since some of you want such. Fact, the pt135 and 91k and pt91 flying has exploded with more new clients than ever. Many fractional and pt135 operators are not accepting new clients because they can barely service the ones they now have. The used turbine airplane market inventories are at their lowest level ever. Fact, moving companies in the highly COVID mask mandate restricted states are reporting record business, barely able to keep up with demand with those who want to leave those states. Fact pointed out by the author, mortality rate between Florida and New York are almost identical. Fact, although the TSA has said the numbers of persons cleared through airline checkpoints is up, they are still below 2019 numbers. These facts show me what people think of all the mandates and if any politicians out there who are up for re-election next year better pay attention. Just ask the former governor of Virginia. Now I am seeing rumors online that all of the airline cancellations during Christmas time are not due to COVID infections, but are the result of Biden’s vaccination mandate. Those who chose not to get vaccinated are telling those employers to pound sand and resigning ahead of those vaccination mandates. Things could get worse if the northern border with Canada truck driver vaccination mandate happens in 2 weeks. Fact, the governor of New York has now reduced the time medical personnel need to quarantine after testing positive. Her excuse is due to lower numbers of medical professionals currently available. When you get confusing or arbitrary changes who do you believe? Is it any wonder flight attendants are stuck with having to deal with irate customers with the mask issue?

  33. ‘ When you get confusing or arbitrary changes who do you believe? Is it any wonder flight attendants are stuck with having to deal with irate customers with the mask issue?’

    As an adult I always know who and what to believe, no difficulty with discrimination and knowingness here. If I’m in doubt temporarily, I know it will be revealed in due time through patience and/or further study on my part. For those who are not capable, willing or patient enough to discern information, does that excuse childish behavior and violence toward airline crews or anyone else for that matter because one is confused as what to believe? As a pilot seeing both sides are you being facetious?

    These are emotionally undisciplined derelicts on aircraft who apparently struggle to live civilly and respectfully toward others and follow the rules. Recent news stories (no doubt seen by some as ‘fake’ news) report that unvaccinated, unmasked, sick with Covid dregs are screaming, cursing, and spitting on hospital staff and demanding these health care workers treat them immediately in clinics and hospitals across the country, questioning their education and treatments, doctors and nurses alike, and disgustingly threatening violence to their children and families. Real expressions of personal freedom, no doubt.

    Is it justified these selfless caregivers are stuck with having to deal with these human slops over masks and vaccinations because these snowflakes are confused over what to do with information? Really?

    Their ‘freedom’ is at stake? Sorry to be a downer, but freedom is only found in personal responsibility – begin to accept that then watch personal freedom grow exponentially. Mental slavery to politics, social engineering, workplace pronouns and governments will fade to black.

    Blessings to them all for their tireless service and the researchers, government workers, Vets for Vaccines, test center volunteers and all the pilots, FA’s and airport personnel who have to deal with these bottom feeders every, damn, day. I hope they got a breather from it all this holiday time…oh wait, the unvaccinated, mask-less wonders are still flooding their workplace.

  34. I would suggest the issue is bigger than just the efficacy of masks, or even the efficacy of vaccines. The scary dynamic for me is the vilification of health science and government health policy.

    There is an increasing segment of the population in North America that refuses to believe anything public health experts say. This has scary implications for society going forward. If there is no relatively agreed upon set of facts around a public health emergency, instead just a plethora of random and often contradictory opinions propagated on social media, how does society cope with any aspect of public health care delivery?

    • I agree also, but there is more to than just social media. Public health officials give out inconsistent advice, politicians and other officials giving out advice or “orders” then turning around and ignoring or violating those very orders. Even now almost 2 years into this and still various governors and the president act like dictators and bypass their respective legislative bodies. Officials in the Biden administration have already admitted using OSHA to enforce a vaccination mandate is an attempt to bypass congress on this issue. Now this bypass issue could be decided in the Supreme Court in January. I believe Mr Kelly’s comments on mask wearing inside an airliner are probably true but he backtracked that comment probably to keep his employees unions happy. All that and the political correctness and “woke” politics, it’s no wonder no one believes anything the government or government health officials say any more.

    • It’s the expected result when politics so obviously became the driving issue in decision making from the very beginning. When liberal protest were said to have been too important to follow mandates but schools had to close. When liquor stores could stay open but church services were shut down. The outright hostility towards any expert that questioned unscientific based mandates. The rules for thee but not for me. Known very early that this illness had a very low mortality rate with the exception of a limited demographic, impossible to prevent the spread with very similar infection rates between masked and locked downed states and those that didn’t. Common sense will get you just as far or further than political/ideological driven public health “mandates” disguised as science based public health directives.

  35. Paul defended his opinion making it clear he couldn’t find a study comparing the efficacy of airline cabin filtration only to mask usage also, that is true. But over a year ago the results of a DOD / United Airlines flight test series with a simulated masked passenger were released. The study found that “when masks are worn there is only a 0.003% chance particles from a passenger can enter the passenger’s breathing space who is sitting beside them”. Safer than an operating room.
    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/risk-covid-19-exposure-planes-virtually-nonexistent-masked/story?id=73616599
    When the pandemic started, COVID contagious passengers were flying to and inside the USA, most unmasked, as we had a global mask shortage. Stories of passengers contracting COVID after flying were frequent, but that was before the DOT airline mask mandate. We really don’t need a study comparing the efficacy of airline cabin filtration while unmasked to masked, when common sense will do. If a study was to be done, repeat this one without masks.
    Ask yourself, would you like to sit on an airline next to a wheezing, coughing, sweating, talkative passenger without a mask?
    As a last point, my airline believes in the efficacy of cabin filtration and masks so much that it has a policy on how to return a flight crew member with COVID back to their domicile on one of our flights. They ask the crew member to wear an N95 mask and no passengers are seated within six feet of them.
    Masks are effective and I hope we can end this pandemic and the airline mask mandate in 2022.