US airlines tell crew not to force passengers to wear masks onboard even as new study shows they stop spread
Most airlines require passengers to mask up to ensure safety during the Covid-19 crisis. Now, three top US airlines have asked their crew members to not force travelers to wear masks, according to reports.
Crew members from American Airlines Holdings Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc and United Airlines Holdings Inc will encourage masking up and might even deny entry to unmasked passengers at the gate. However, that policy changes onboard, according to a Reuters report.
"Once onboard and off the gate, the face-covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face-covering policy," American Airlines told its pilots, explaining its policy which went into effect on Monday.
"Bottom line to pilots: a passenger onboard your aircraft who is being compliant with the exception of wearing a face covering is NOT considered disruptive enough to trigger a Threat Level 1 response," referring to some kind of intentional disruption by a passenger that could cause the captain to divert the flight.
Other airlines claim they have adopted policies that mandate wearing masks and social distancing measures.
Only recently, United Airlines was in the news after a doctor released a photograph of a packed flight, with passengers sitting frighteningly close to each other. "This is the last time I'll be flying again for a very long time," he tweeted.
The news comes amid reports of some Americans pushing back on face coverings. In the recent past, protestors took to the streets without donning masks.
A section of the US population is questioning the effectiveness of face masks, even as other countries are more compliant. The defiance has gone so far that a customer killed a security guard who asked him to cover their face.
Calling the attitude disrespectful, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reportedly said: "You can literally kill someone because you did not want to wear a mask. How cruel and irresponsible would that be?"
New study on why you should wear a mask
In a preprint study, researchers make a case for face covering. After modeling real-life conditions, the researchers predicted that infection rates can drastically fall if 80% of the population wear masks — even if they are made at home.
And countries might witness even better results if they adopt universal face-masks early in the outbreak. The study could explain why East Asian countries, where masks are a norm, are doing a lot better.
"Against this backdrop, a growing number of voices suggest that universal face mask-wearing, as practiced effectively in most East Asian regions, is an additional, essential component in the mitigation toolkit for a sustainable exit from harsh lockdowns," Dr De Kai from International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley and his colleagues wrote in their study.
An earlier study found that high compliance for face-covering among the public is most effective at stopping the spread of the virus, along with practicing good hygiene and social distancing measures.
"We recommend that public officials and governments strongly encourage the use of widespread face masks in public," the authors argue in their study.
In the new study, the researchers warn that even if people practice social distancing after opening up, they could still face a second wave of the epidemic in 4-5 months without masking. Their study supports the argument of expanding "test, trace, isolate" to "test, trace, isolate, mask".
Commenting on the study, William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told Vanity Fair: "It supports a notion that I advocate along with most other infectious disease experts: that masks are very, very important."