COVID: How safe is it to fly without a mask?

With US airlines now allowing passengers to fly on domestic flights without wearing masks under the Florida judge’s ruling, experts are still encouraging passengers to wear masks when violating the law. Omicron’s BA.2 bacteria continue to spread.

The airline and travel industries have been calling for the removal of these duties for months. Last December, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told a US Senate committee during a hearing that HEPA filters on planes capture 99.97% of airborne pathogens.

“I think it’s a very serious case that masks aren’t replenished much, if at all, in the cabin environment,” Kelly told the committee.

But University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Dr Nazeem Muhajarine notes that HEPA filters on planes only work if the plane’s engines are on. During boarding, launching and refueling, when the engines are off, the filters do not provide any protection.

“The HEPA filter really does a good job of filtering and ventilation,” he told on Wednesday.

Several studies have concluded that wearing a mask on an airplane can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

A May 2021 study from the UK looked at the possibility of contracting COVID-19 onboard during a test carried out on a Boeing 777. For a 12-hour flight, they calculated that Wearing a highly effective mask like N95 can reduce the average infection probability by 73%, while a low efficiency mask can reduce infection by 32%.

However, the effectiveness of these masks will decrease when included in meals. If all passengers had to remove their masks for an hour to eat a meal, the researchers calculated that the average probability of infection was reduced by just 59 percent for high-performance masks and 8 percent for high-performance masks. low fruit.

Simulations looking at the aerosol spread of COVID-19 on Boeing 767 and 777 jets conducted in August 2020 also show that when passengers wear surgical masks, the amount of cough drops decreases more than 90%.

Muhajarine also noted the rising COVID-19 numbers in much of Canada as well as the United States and called the judge’s ruling “untimed.”

He told on Wednesday that: “COVID-19 hasn’t come down to the point where it needs to be before we consider the mandate to wear masks on flights. .

Although masks are no longer mandatory, the US Centers for Disease Control still recommends wearing them on flights and other indoor public transportation. US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said his administration could appeal the ruling.

However, the ruling does not affect flights to and from Canada, and Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said there are no plans to lift Canada’s federal mask regulation for airlines. no and VIA Rail.

The Conservatives have called on the Liberals to follow the direction of the Florida judge and dismantle transportation mask regulations in Canada. But Muhajarine believes removing the quests would be “extremely unacceptable” at this point.

“We need to keep that a little bit longer until we see the virus and COVID-19 numbers go down,” he said.

If you’re planning on flying within the United States on a flight with mostly non-masking passengers, Muhajarine recommends staying up to date with your COVID-19 booster shots and wearing a well-fitting mask throughout the flight.

“Learning to live with this virus is really about keeping yourself and others safe, not just forgetting about the virus, thinking it’s gone,” he said. It hasn’t disappeared yet.”

Even if you’re the only person on the plane wearing a mask, Dr Amesh Adaja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said “wearing a one-way mask” can still help reduce risk virus infection, especially if it is a well-equipped highly effective mask.

“One-way respirators work. So there’s a lot of concern, but keep in mind that if you’re wearing a well-fitting N95 equivalent, I think you’re in pretty good shape, especially if you’re vaccinated and boosted, because that’s the most you can do,” he told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

With files from the Associated Press.

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