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Fauci Says Masking on Airplanes Will Never Go Away

White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci waits to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on “Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 4, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Sunday said he does not believe we are ever going to reach a point where Americans won’t be required to wear masks on airplanes due to Covid-19 concerns.

ABC News This Week host Jonathan Karl asked Fauci about comments from several of the CEOs of top airlines that “you are actually safer than you are in an ICU” on a plane because of the filtration systems on flights. Karl asked if we will reach a point where we don’t have to wear masks on airplanes.

“I don’t think so,” Fauci said. “I think when you’re dealing with a close space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step.”

The CDC has mandated masks on planes and in airports; the federal policy was recently extended into March.

On Wednesday, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly testified at a Senate commerce committee hearing that “the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment.”

“It is very safe and high-quality compared to any other indoor setting,” he said. 

“I concur,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said. “An aircraft is the safest place you can be. It’s true of all of our aircraft — they all have the same HEPA filters and air flow.”

Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.) said he was “shocked” at the CEO’s suggestions that masks are no longer needed on airplanes.

Fauci’s comments come amid heightened concerns over the Omicron variant, which appears to be highly transmissible, although potentially less virulent.

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