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OPINION

Why Are We Still Playing Mask Theater At Airports And On Airplanes

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

If one pattern has been constant everywhere throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that the implementation or relaxation of mask mandates had absolutely zero correlation with any rise or fall in virus infection numbers. Implement forced public masking, and cases inevitably went up, even if weeks or months later. Relax them, as has been the fortunate trend of late, and cases continue to fall. Even if they rise some again in a few months with the onset of respiratory virus season, it will have nothing to do with masks. After all, last year’s major fall/winter spike came with mask mandates in place and over 90 percent compliance almost nationwide.

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You’d think the powers-that-be would take note of such trends, even as evidence that further research is needed, but no, the Branch Covidians’ faith in their face mask god is just too great. They won’t allow themselves to openly question the Power Of The Mask for fear of being labeled a heretic and losing their reputations, their positions, or more.

Consequently, even as they’ve been forced by the actions of red states to relax restrictions almost everywhere - because the much ballyhooed relaxations in red states led to no spikes and the jig was up - they continue to hold tightly to mask mandates in places, like public transportation, where they feel they can get away with it with little or no pushback. 

In April, with the pandemic well on the decline, the TSA extended its mask mandate for airports and airplanes through September 13. Why a date that far out, when surely they knew the virus would have mostly burned out by June or July at the latest? My theory is they are hoping for the beginnings of a fall/winter wave by then in order to justify extending the mandate indefinitely and, consequently, keeping a piece of forced public masking - and Covidstan - in place as a reminder and endless conditioner to the public that it could be reinstated anytime, anywhere, at the whims of our overlords. 

Their ‘logic,’ such that it is, is easily bought into by most of the public. That’s because planes are generally regarded as sealed, disgusting, disease-ridden tubes filled to the brim with coughing, sneezing people sharing their germs with everyone else on board. Those who regard them that way, however, are only seeing part of the picture. Yes, planes are most certainly bacteria incubators (those seats and trays can be downright disgusting!), but as far as respiratory virus spread, the air we breathe on planes is completely recycled through a HEPA filter every three minutes and is cleaner than almost any air one would breathe indoors on the ground. 

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That doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t catch COVID-19 - or something else - from an infected person you’re sitting right next to. But then, a mask isn’t going to help anyway. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a “close contact” as spending 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of an infected person “irrespective of whether the person with COVID-19 or the contact was wearing a mask or whether the contact was wearing respiratory personal protective equipment (PPE).” In these situations, regardless of whether either or both parties were wearing a mask, the agency recommends a 14-day quarantine. 

In other words, if you’re sitting next to an infected person for more than 15 minutes, in a plane or anywhere else, a mask isn’t going to do squat. This has been widely known the entirety of the pandemic. Yet, even as airlines ignore any semblance of social distancing by happily filling up every middle seat, the TSA still insists upon the endless mask theater not just on planes, but at airports, which are no different than any other indoor area in the country where people are currently going maskless. There are signs, though, of a growing impatience, followed by attempts to explain the unexplainable.

Journalist Megyn Kelly tweeted recently: “Flying from FL (no masks req’d) to NY (no masks req’d - FINALLY!) & thanks to the wisdom of Pete Buttigieg, everyone must wear a mask in airport/on plane bc … virtue. These absurdities would be funny if they weren’t so intrusive and- literally-in your face.”

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To which Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, responded: “Thanks for flying w/ us. Masks are still required in transportation b/c 1. Not everyone has access to vaccine (kids/others) 2. Vaccines protect people from serious illness - can still carry virus and variants 3. Int’l travel still not back - we need to recover fully.”

When will we “recover fully”? When no COVID is on the planet? (Hint: that will never happen.) Have kids ever been proven superspreaders or at statistical risk? And who, pray tell, are the “others” without access to the vaccine? Every Walgreens and CVS I drive by is literally begging to give it away for free.

Earlier this month, Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott attempted to amend rail and safety legislation to end the mask mandate before September 13, only to be voted down by every Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (Democrats LOVE their face diapers). 

“I think we should express the sense of this committee that what is being foisted on us now in the name of science is hogwash,” said Republican Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker.

Republicans, thankfully, seem to be generally united in being fed up with what Texas Sen. Ted Cruz recently called “performative theater,” introducing a resolution on Friday to end the mandate early. 

"Americans should be able to travel to celebrate Independence Day with their friends and loved ones without having to follow an outdated and unnecessary mandate," Cruz said via a press release.

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Even Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz has expressed impatience. Though he sided with fellow Democrats in the aforementioned committee vote, he did suggest a non-binding “sense of the Senate” resolution to encourage Biden’s administration to “reconsider” the mandate.

So, what is Pete Buttigieg’s excuse for continuing the insanity? Asked by Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins why people can go maskless at a crowded bar but not on an airplane, the former medium-sized city mayor muttered something about children not being vaccinated (yes, peddling this unscientific nonsense is truly what they’ve been reduced to) and people “from different places passing through the same small place.” Uh, okay.

While the federal transportation mask mandate, at first glance, may seem to some to be rooted in science and common sense, it is in reality as dumb and pointless as virtually every other non-pharmaceutical intervention the powers-that-be have thrown at this virus. It’s past time to end it.

Please consider following me on Twitter, Parler and Gab, and ‘friend’ me on MeWe (I will accept all contact requests). Also be sure to follow my COVID ‘Team Reality’ Twitter list, 180+ doctors, medical professionals, analysts, data hounds, media, and politicians unafraid to tell the truth about COVID-19.

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