Fauci says masks on planes here to stay, tells Americans to be prudent on travel

Dec 19, 2021

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Editors’ note: This post has been updated with a quote from Southwest. 

Masks are here to stay. That’s the message from White House Chief Medical Officer Doctor Anthony Fauci.

Fauci – also director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – told John Karl on ABC’s “This Week” that he did not see a time when masks were going away. He also suggested extra caution during travel and family gatherings.

The mask message came in response to a question about airline CEOs testifying on Capitol Hill last week who suggested that masks weren’t that vital.

Fauci said, “I think when you are dealing with a close space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step.. you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco it’s a well over a five-hour flight. Even though you have a good filtrations system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do and we should be doing it.”

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Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said last week, “I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment.”

Southwest later issued a statement saying, “Southwest Airlines continues to abide by the federal mask mandate for customers and employees both within the airport environment and onboard all Southwest aircraft.”

The next day, Kelly tested positive for COVID-19. 


Related: CDC guidance on masks

The Biden Administration has extended a federal mask mandate through at least March 2022.

Related: The best face masks and where to buy them

While he doesn’t see more lockdowns right now, Fauci is also advising Americans gathering with friends and family during the holidays to be cautious. “If you are vaccinated and boosted and are prudent when you travel, when you’re in an airport to be wearing a mask all the time, you have to be wearing a mask on a plane. Do not do things like go to gatherings where there are people who you do not know what their vaccination status is.”

He said the new omicron variant – now found in at least 43 states – is “really something to be reckoned with,” with cases doubling every two to three days, “It is really rapidly spreading literally throughout the world and certainly in our own country.”

In another interview on Friday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Fauci did say family gatherings and travel were okay and low-risk as long as you are vaccinated and boosted (if eligible). “If you are vaccinated, your family is vaccinated, you have friends who are vaccinated — and hopefully also boosted — you can still enjoy a social gathering generally in a home,” Fauci said in the interview on Friday.

Featured image of  “Masks Required” sign posted at the entrance to the Ferry Building in San Francisco on July 19, 2021, by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images. 

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