Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, told Americans on Sunday that removing masks on airplanes is ‘not something we should even be considering,’ as hundreds of flights in the U.S. continue to be canceled due to the spread of the Omicron variant across the country.
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Fauci made the comment while answering Jonathan Karl’s question on the possibility of introducing a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel.
‘We want to make sure people keep their masks on. I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering,’ Fauci said.
Earlier this month, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said in front of a U.S. Senate panel hearing that masks ‘don’t add much, if anything’ to protect airline passengers from spreading COVID.
‘And of course, the airline CEOs were suggesting that — you know, that we may not — may no longer need a mask. I hear you loud and clearly, you disagree with that on an — on the airplane,’
Fauci disagreed with the airline executive’s view and then mentioned the possibility of introducing a vaccine mandate for domestic and international air travel to increase the percentage of vaccine rollout across the U.S.
Fauci said that the idea of removing masks while on an airplane ‘is really not something we should even be considering,’ while appearing on ABC’s latest edition of This Week on Sunday
Fauci added that the obligation to wear a mask while traveling by plane may never be removed and that introducing a vaccine mandate for domestic and international air travel would force non-vaccinated Americans to immune themselves against the coronavirus
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on December 15, saying masks on airplanes don’t necessarily help when it comes to stoping the spread of the coronavirus during air travel.
‘A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated; namely, you can’t get on a plane unless you’re vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be,’ Fauci said.
‘So I mean, anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome. But with regard to the spread of virus in the country, I mean, I think if you look at wearing a mask and the filtration on planes, things are reasonably safe,’ he continued.
Overall, 204,740,321 Americans or 62 percent of the population have received both COVID-vaccine doses.
As of Dec. 21, 62,211,823 Americans had received a booster, or 30.4 percent of the country’s fully vaccinated population, according to the CDC’s data.
Travelers wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19. Masks need to be worn on airples in order to travel domestically across the U.S.
As of Dec. 21, 62,211,823 Americans had received a booster, or 30.4 percent of the country’s fully vaccinated population, according to the CDC’s data. Overall, 204,740,321 Americans or 62 percent of the population have received both COVID-vaccine doses.
In last week’s edition of ABC’s program, Fauci shared his skepticism on whether there will ever be a time where masks won’t be compulsory for air travel.
‘I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good that you want to go that extra step,’ Fauci said. ‘When you have people, you know you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s a well over a five hour flight.’
‘Even though you have a good filtration system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do and we should be doing it,’ he added.
Meanwhile, more than 700 domestic flights have already been delayed or canceled for Monday as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to surge.
Among the airlines reporting disruptions are United, JetBlue, American, Alaskan, Delta and Southwest, as well as many international carriers.
The disruptions came after more than 7,300 flights were impacted on Sunday, which followed 4,000 flights getting canceled or delayed on Christmas Day – leaving travelers frustrated amid the holiday weekend.
‘This was unexpected,’ United spokesperson Maddie King told USA Today.
Delta, United and JetBlue have blamed the Omicron variant for staffing challenges that led to the disruptions.
The hectic travel schedule comes as airlines have been hit hard by the recent COVID surge that saw 151,915 new cases confirmed on Christmas Day, along with a total of 4,644 Omicron cases.
Fauci said that the weekly average of 150,000 COVID cases keeps spiking.
‘Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was about 150,000 and it likely will go much higher,’ he told ABC’s This Week.
The recent COVID surge in the U.S. saw 151,915 new cases confirmed on Christmas Day, along with a total 4,644 Omicron cases, as more positive cases continue to rise across the country.
The highest number of COVID-related deaths in the U.S. in December was on December 2, with more than 3,500 deaths across the nation