On August 12 a mother was traveling with her husband, four year old, and two year old from Orlando To Norfolk, Virginia. While they traveled well to Florida, they were having difficulty with the younger child on the way home. The two year old wouldn’t keep her mask on, because she sucks her thumb and the mask gets in the way.
Two flight attendants, the woman said, stood over them watching as she struggled with the child. And one suggested she “glue it to her face.” And, “[t]he flight attendant, Cleek said, indicated she had glue available.”
“I just know that regardless if it was sarcasm or not I was embarrassed and trying to follow the mandate as much as I could,” Cleek said. “My daughter is 2. We were doing everything we could to comply.”
In her post, she wrote “I don’t like being this person. Wearing a mask is the federal mandate… I get it. I respect it. But at some point we have to have human decency. Compassion.”
The mother, for her part, doesn’t “want parents to feel like they have to hold down their child to put on a mask.”
According to Southwest Airlines,
The federal mask mandate for travelers has been in effect since February 2, 2021 and requires all passengers over the age of two to wear a mask at all times throughout the travel journey. We [Southwest] appreciate the ongoing cooperation among our customers as we work, collectively, to follow the federal mandate and support the comfort and wellbeing of all who travel with us during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As a note, customers are reminded of the federal mask mandate multiple times prior to travel. Southwest provides reminders during the booking process on our website; in pre-trip emails sent to customers prior to departure; and as a part of a customer’s Health Declaration Form that must be acknowledged during the check-in process on the Southwest app, Southwest.com, Southwest’s mobile website, and airport kiosks.
Note that even the Southwest spokesperson gets the mandate wrong, saying it is for those “over the age of two” when it’s required for those two and over.
Throughout the pandemic, two year olds and their families have been getting kicked off of planes due to mask issues: on United, JetBlue, Frontier, American, and Southwest. Before the mask mandate was federal Delta allowed two year olds to travel maskless.
I have been pro-mask since long before the CDC recommended them. I argued that air crew should be permitted to wear them, back when American Airlines still forbid it in March 2020. And I argued throughout last year and up to the present that people should be wearing better masks, initially Level 3 procedure masks and verifiable KN95s or KF94s, and then when they became more broadly available
About 50% of cases in young children, pre-Delta variant, were asymptomatic. When they aren’t, symptoms are generally mild. For very young children risk remains very low even with Delta and marginally lower risk than flu and RSV. Young children have also been less likely to spread the virus, even in households. And planes have far better air filtration and air flow than homes (or bars, restaurants and other indoor congregant settings where people go maskless in muhc of the country). In any case, a thin strip of paper with two strings, which satisfies the mandate, does little to protect anyone.