Planes are safer indoor environments than restaurants, bars, and gyms but we have to wear masks on planes – and in most states, not in those other places – for political reasons and not science reasons. There’s a plausible legal argument for the federal government to require it on planes, and there’s no such authority in bars.
And the science on whether and how much the average mask helps against Covid-19 is… mixed. N95 masks are protective. Lesser masks offer some protection from others if you’re infectious, but don’t do as much to protect you from the virus.
Nonetheless, there is some benefit to masks. And many public health officials see mask requirements as an ultra-low (or no) cost step to take to require them. There’s been a push from Biden insiders to make masks on planes permanent, as I wrote this summer. Now Dr. Fauci appears to speak to it.
Anthony Fauci, on ABC’s This Week, was asked whether we would “get to the point where we won’t have to wear masks on airplanes?”
His answer: “I don’t think so.” And then he talks about why masks on planes are prudent.
ABC: “Are we going to get to the point where we won’t have to wear masks on airplanes?”
DR. FAUCI: “I don’t think so. I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that that extra step…"
— Ross Feinstein (@RossFeinstein) December 19, 2021
I still believe the administration will want to declare victory on the pandemic before the midterm elections, and doing so will necessitate lifting the mask mandate. Just as the choice of target for mandating masks is a political and legal decision rather than a scientific one, the decision to lift mask mandates will be political as well.