If you follow the science, you know that wearing a face mask is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That’s especially true if there’s no way to remain socially distant from others.
It took the airlines months to finally come up with policies that force their passengers to properly wear appropriate face masks on planes. Most people are, thankfully, compliant, either because they agree it’s for safety, or at least are willing to follow the rules. However you’ll sometimes have that one person who just won’t wear one. Some of them have been removed from planes before they even take off. But once they’re in the air, flight attendants can only encourage up to a certain point. The only recourse airlines have for these people who refuse to wear a mask is add them to their Do Not Fly list for future flights. To date, hundreds of people have been added to the airlines’ respective lists.
Multiple organizations and individuals, including those that represent consumer groups, public health officials, airline employee unions and members of Congress, have said there need to be enforceable federal rules that are consistent across the air travel industry to minimize the risk for transmission of the virus. They’ve all asked the federal government to intervene and make some sort of law to require mask use.
But the best they’ve gotten from Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, and Health and Human Services are a list of guidelines that use nambly pambly wambly words like “encouragement.” So to clarify that, according to the federal government, you’re required to wear a seat belt on a plane for safety (which people do, because it being a law, in and of itself, makes it a deterrent), and are not allowed to smoke due to safety (again, most people comply), but are only encouraged to wear a mask. That’s a big, potentially dangerous difference.
But now we know why.
The New York Times recently wrote this piece:
According to the NYT, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) drafted an order in September that required, “all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation in the United States.”
The order, according to two federal health officials who wanted to remain anonymous, would have required people to wear appropriate facial coverings on any public or commercial transportation, such as airplanes, trains, buses and subways, as well as in transit hubs such as airports, train stations and bus depots.
It had been written under the agency’s “quarantine powers” and was supported by Alex M. Azar II the secretary of health and human services. If put into place, the orders would have been the toughest federal mandate on record to help curb COVID-19.
So what happened with it? The White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, refused to even discuss the idea.
According to a task force official, “The approach the task force has taken with any mask mandate is, the response in New York City is different than Montana, or Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Local and state authorities need to determine the best approach for their responsive effort depending on how the coronavirus is impacting their area.”
So the United States Department of State task force that’s supposed to “coordinate and oversee the administration’s efforts to monitor, prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread” of coronavirus disease won’t mandate the simplest thing that could prevent, contain and mitigate the spread of the disease while on the country’s transportation services.
Sigh. You guys, I just can’t even.
The United States still leads the world in coronavirus cases, with a full 25% or more of the world’s total number of cases and deaths. According to John Hopkins University of Medicine, there is coronavirus in every single state, and cases have occurred in all but the least inhabited counties of every one of them.
Whether you’re in Tuscaloosa or New York City, you may not know if the person next to you on the bus has coronavirus and is asymptomatic or was just recently infected and just won’t start showing symptoms until tomorrow; either way, they’re contagious. An airline has no “state” to answer to – it’s a private entity that’s trying to (A) keep its passengers safe and (B) show those who are still afraid to fly how safe they are.
I have no words. No, wait – I do have one word.
Feature Photo: David Woo / flickr
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#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands #wearamask
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary