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Why I hope every single airline follows Delta's latest mask move

July 29, 2020
4 min read
Why I hope every single airline follows Delta's latest mask move
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There's endless confusion when it comes to our coronavirus response in the United States, but one thing's clear — those masks with vents that help improve airflow aren't nearly as effective at protecting other people from your germs. And, fortunately, Delta just helped build significant awareness around the issue with an unexpected — but welcome — vented mask ban.

Vented masks do have an appropriate use, but not when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19. 3M, one of the most prolific disposable mask manufacturers, has even built a brand around its "Cool Flow Valve," which the company says is "designed to release your hot, humid exhaled breath quickly." Nobody wants to be anywhere near your hot, humid exhaled breath today.

Screenshot courtesy of 3M

My first exposure to vented masks came nearly two years ago, during an especially toxic air quality day in China. Everyone was wearing a mask, much as many of us would love to see in the U.S. right now, and a number of the masks locals and tourists chose had large protruding vents.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo-akcXh0UY/

In that situation, a vented mask was a logical pick, since I only needed to protect myself. But we're wearing masks for an entirely different reason today.

I first noticed the issue in early May and tried to get the word out in a video on Twitter. I was able to order a handful of industrial N95 masks and attempted to hand them off to a hospital when our nationwide PPE shortage was especially severe. Unfortunately, they were rejected, since masks with valves are absolutely forbidden in healthcare settings, given that they're less effective at preventing the wearer from spreading germs.

Unfortunately, non-vented N95 masks are impossible to come by, since they remain in short supply, with healthcare workers still forced to reuse normally disposable masks. In some situations, though, I worry that a regular cloth mask just won't cut it, failing to keep me safe around unmasked COVID-19 carriers. After consulting a physician in the family, I found a viable workaround, and I continue to wear my vented N95 if there's a risk of encountering someone refusing to wear a mask indoors.

The trick is to wear your vented N95 mask, and then add a second mask on top. Some healthcare workers already wear double masks to protect their precious N95s with a cheap surgical mask, and I've been using the same solution myself, making it possible to wear the vented N95 to protect myself, with a surgical mask to protect others on top.

That obviously defeats the purpose for anyone using a vent to improve airflow — if that's your only reason for choosing a vented mask — but it does make it possible to safely wear a "Cool Flow Valve" mask during the pandemic, since an N95 may offer additional protection in certain situations. I'll never wear my vented N95 by itself, though, knowing that it isn't as effective at protecting others.

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Given Delta's latest move, I'd feel more comfortable flying the airline today. Delta is clearly taking its mask mandate incredibly seriously, going so far as to ban flyers who don't comply, as other U.S. carriers have also vowed to do. I'm hopeful that other U.S. and international airlines will follow this latest move, too. Updating guidance regarding which masks are acceptable to wear will help keep everyone safe without a financial burden for the airline.

I did reach out to representatives at all of the U.S. airlines this week, and while none have committed to following Delta's latest move, it's something that's currently being discussed. In fact, based on the feedback I received, I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two U.S. airlines follow suit within the next few days, taking an important next step to improving safety at the airport and onboard.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
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10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
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    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

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  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees