In mid-March – which seems like years ago at this point – Alitalia began requiring passengers to wear masks in order to fly. Italy became one of the key early areas for the coronavirus outbreak.
Early on in the pandemic U.S. officials told a ‘noble lie’ that people shouldn’t wear masks. Masks have been a key part of suppressing spread of COVID-19 in Taiwan, and South Korea.
While masks aren’t the only driver of by any means, by now you’re no doubt familiar with this chart:
This graph has been making the rounds today on the effect of masks at reducing #SARSCoV2 #HCoV19 #COVID19 #coronavirus transmission. There's a lot more going on here than mask/no mask pic.twitter.com/vdSMAsmhoX
— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) March 28, 2020
American Airlines is going to start handing out masks to passengers on some flights. Several airlines are requiring flight attendants to wear masks.
And now JetBlue is becoming the first U.S. airline to require it of passengers starting May 4.
[S]tarting May 4 all customers will be required to wear a face covering during travel. …This new policy will require customers to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth throughout their journey, including during check-in, boarding, while in flight and deplaning. Customers will be reminded of this requirement before their flight via email and at the airport by both terminal signage and announcements. Small children who are not able to maintain a face covering are exempt from this requirement.
..[A]n item of cloth that should fit snugly against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric and allow for unrestricted breathing.
This seems reasonable. Presumably other passengers who have medical reasons not to wear a mask will be exempt in addition to ‘small children’. However masks provide some measure of protection for other passengers in the event the wearer is asymptomatic but spreading the virus.