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As mask mandates are lifted nationally, Time Magazine published an opinion article Monday about masking up even after it’s no longer required.
While the federal mask mandate for transportation such as buses, trains, and planes is set to expire on March 18, health correspondent Jamie Ducharme argued on behalf of extending the mandate, or at least promoting mask-wearing as a “good idea” in “Why You Should Keep Wearing a Mask on Planes — Even When You No Longer Have To.”
“There’s plenty of potential for exposure in the airport, such as when people remove their masks to eat or drink at the gate, [Dr. Aisha Khatib, chair of the International Society of Travel Medicine’s Responsible Travel interest group] says,” Ducharme wrote. “That alone makes wearing a mask a good idea while traveling.”
Ducharme put forth several studies and research examples that emphasize the minor chance of catching COVID-19 while on flights.
“A 2020 study conducted for the U.S. Department of Defense — and carried out by researchers from Boeing and United Airlines, among others — found that aircraft ventilation and filtration systems reduced the risk of airborne SARS-CoV-2 exposure by more than 99%,” Ducharme wrote.
Ducharme’s main argument for masking appeared to focus more on hypothetical scenarios or interactions outside a plane.
“It’s hard to say exactly how risky it is to fly during the pandemic, because lots of variables affect whether SARS-CoV-2 jumps from one traveler to another: everything from how much virus a traveler is carrying to the length of the flight and the vaccination statuses of other people on board,” she said.
Her article included a September 2021 research review piece that stated it was “not clear whether the use of masks can prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in flights.” Ducharme said this wasn’t a case against masking.
“That doesn’t mean masks do or do not work — only that published studies haven’t fully answered the question,” Ducharme wrote.
In 2022, more and more media outlets argued on behalf of lifting mask mandates in public areas like schools, but some pundits have remained dedicated to pushing masks even as the nation moves forward.