Airlines And Rallies: How Masks Became Political During Coronavirus Pandemic

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A Detroit-to-Los Angeles flight was delayed during the weekend because of a passenger who refused to comply with Delta Air Lines’ face mask requirement, the airline said, as the debate over whether to wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus raged across the United States.

“We apologize to customers on Flight 201 from DTW to LAX that returned to the gate when a customer did not comply with Delta’s mask-wearing requirement on board,” a Delta spokesman said said in a statement on the Saturday incident. “After a short delay, the flight departed to Los Angeles.” 

Delta is enforcing coronavirus-related policies through Jan. 6, including rear boarding first, blocking middle seats and requiring face masks for all passengers. 

Pamela Wiley, a Los Angeles resident on Flight 201, said she was seated in first class and could hear the flight attendants trying to diffuse the situation, with different attendants attempting to persuade the passenger to put on a mask. During this, the plane stopped on the runway as attendants tried to figure out how to handle the noncompliant passenger.

“They really tried to work with her, it was very well done,” Wiley said. An attendant then made an announcement reemphasizing the mask requirement, with no exceptions. “I was really pleased that they cared enough about the rest of us, and their own health and safety because they know that this is the rule and there is no exception.”

Delta isn’t the only airline facing masks related issues. Jodi Degyansky, 34, who was traveling from Fort Myers, Florida, to Chicago, said she was escorted off her Southwest Airlines flight on Saturday because her 2-year-old son was snacking prior to take off and wasn’t wearing his mask. 

Degyansky said airlines should have more compassion for parents who have toddlers who might have difficulty wearing masks for long periods. 

“We are trying to get used to it, but he’s 2,” Degyansky said. 

CDC guidelines recommend children 2 years of age and older should wear a mask over nose and mouth if it’s difficult to social distance. 

The Los Angeles Times noted more than 700 airline passengers have been banned from flying on US airlines for refusing to wear masks. Delta led the way with 270 passengers on its “no fly” list followed by United Airlines, with 150; Spirit Airlines, 128; Frontier Airlines, 106; Alaska Airlines, 78, and Hawaiian Airlines, six.

 In addition, Alaska Airlines gave out 92 warnings, or “yellow cards,” to passengers who had to be admonished more than once on a flight for ignoring the mask policy, the Times said.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines declined to disclose how many passengers they had banned for violating the face-covering rule.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, masks have been at the forefront of political arguments even though scientists have long said they are effective in stopping the spread of many easily transmitted diseases. 

The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics estimates coronavirus transmissions could be reduced by 30% if 95% of people wear a cloth mask in public.

Attendees at a Nevada campaign rally for President Donald Trump on Saturday, however, appeared not to be social distancing, and few were wearing face masks.

Trump supporter Maria Ainsclugh said she was excited to join a sizable crowd to hear the president speak. She said she feels safe and rejected the idea of wearing masks because she doesn’t believe the pandemic is as serious as health experts say. 

“I see people wearing masks on the street, avoiding getting close to other people — it’s sad. We have to be out and interacting. That’s how we become immune. We need to develop immunity,” Ainsclugh said.

Ainsclugh said she was unconcerned about contracting the virus.

“It’s been eight months — I think I’m immune. And if I get it, I go to the hospital a few days. It’s not that bad.” Ainsclugh said.

Trump’s previous campaign rallies may have contributed to surges in COVID-19. In late June at a rally in Tulsa thousands gathered to support Trump and his reelection campaign. However, Dr. Bruce Dart, the director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department, said the rally “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases. 

Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on the Monday after the rally, a one-day record, and 206 more cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

More than 6.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the U.S. with COVID-19 deaths topping 194,000 by Monday morning.

 

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