There are reports across social media of flights where the majority of passengers aren’t wearing masks, even though masks are ostensibly required by nearly all U.S. airlines. It isn’t just people forgetting, or not bothering, there are many people voicing strong objection online to be required to don a mask. And I’d like to better understand the reasons why.
The evidence for masks is increasingly strong. With little testing and only modest distancing masks may be the biggest reason Japan has kept the virus under control (though, speculatively, it’s also possible more people there are naturally immune).
British researchers recently found that everyone wearing 50% effective masks is enough to slow the spread of the virus (homemade masks are probably more than 50% effective). A German study found masks reduce the growth rate of infections by 40%.
I get that the messaging from the government has been a failure here, that the U.S. started out recommending against masks. This was a failure on the science, a noble lie that bought the government time to secure masks for itself and health care workers before the public went out and bought their own.
Airlines won’t enforce their mask rules because otherwise there’d be conflict in the skies. People can just claim they have a medical condition (even an emotional one) and they’re not required to wear masks anyway. And by the way neither the FAA nor TSA have the legal authority to mandate mask wearing.
On Friday American Airlines reminded people across their social media accounts about the mask requirement. Promoting that other passengers will be wearing masks makes many consumers more comfortable traveling, they feel safer so they’re more willing to purchase tickets.
To ensure everyone’s well-being and that you are traveling in the safest way possible, face coverings are required on board. pic.twitter.com/8Aex1yf4ao
— americanair (@AmericanAir) June 12, 2020
However the mask requirement also brings out heated passions on the opposite side. Now, some people are criticizing American for (1) marketing in their pictures like they’re blocking middle seats, when they aren’t blocking all middle seats, and (2) for failing to enforce the mask rule.
But there are plenty of people who won’t wear masks on board, and who take to the comments to criticize mask-wearing.
I genuinely don’t understand this and I haven’t seen anyone in the comments that’s opposed to masks articulate exactly why.
I actually like this last comment from Todd Stamm who says he’ll vote with his wallet and fly Allegiant, though the route networks between Allegiant and American are hardly comparable. But even he doesn’t explain why.
I’ve seen some notional references to freedom, but:
- The inflight mask policy is an airline one, and not a government requirement. Why would you have freedom to violate the rules laid out by a private business, wouldn’t they have the right to impose conditions on providing their service [within certain bounds, such as non-discrimination rules]?
- Even WHO which suggested they hadn’t seen asymptomatic spread of the virus (and which didn’t release their data but suggested they were relying on a small number of contract tracing instances) had to clarify that they only meant they weren’t finding people who never showed symptoms as the source of spread — they weren’t disputing pre-symptomatic spread meaning people spreading the virus in the days prior to showing symptoms, when they wouldn’t know they were sick.
- Masks contribute both towards reduction in spreading the virus by the wearer, and also afford some level of protection for the wearer. What freedom is there to infect others with a virus (and there’s a chance any of us are pre-symptomatic)? And why not take some measure of protection?
I understand forgetting masks at home, though this is pretty top of mind at this point – but airlines are giving away masks and now the federal government is distributing 100 million of them to travelers too.
You’re going to take the mask off to eat and drink, but why not put it back on when you aren’t doing those things? What’s the actual reason, and why is that reason more compelling than potentially reducing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus?
I genuinely want to know, and appreciate comments, especially from those who are opposed to mask wearing on planes.