U.S. CDC Takes On American Airlines: Government Health Agency Blows It Again – View from the Wing

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The CDC advised against the general public wearing face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19, a lie designed to buy time for the government and health care providers to stockpile limited supplies. They shipped defective tests – the only ones allowed to the used – delaying understanding of spread of the virus in the U.S. by weeks. And they completely failed in implementing the China travel ban allowing passengers with SARS-COV-2 to enter the U.S. unchecked.

If you want to understand why people now refuse to wear masks, despite substantial research showing the benefit and very little downside, it’s simple: our leadership has failed us, hasn’t told us the truth, and people do not trust what they’re told.

Now CDC Director Robert Redfield has something to say about American Airlines. He thinks it’s horrible that American will sell middle seats on planes. As he explained in response to a question by Senator Bernie Sanders,

Redfield told members of Congress that the policy is currently under “critical review” at the agency as he said it doesn’t send the right message to Americans amid a pandemic.

“Obviously, when they announced that the other day, there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing on U.S. efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t think it sends the right message.”

Redfield called out American, and said they are ‘under review’ because of an announcement made on Friday that they will no longer limit capacity on planes selling most of their seats. However, he appears not to realize that,

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  • American Airlines wasn’t blocking all middle seats before – they had a soft cap of 85% load factor on their flights. If there’s a concern now, where was the CDC when American was selling half of middle seats for months?
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  • While Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue have more stringent limits, American Airlines joins other carriers that lack any limits at all. Indeed their new policy largely mirrors what United Airlines has already had in place. Why is Redfield just now concerned about American?
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  • Planes haven’t been identified as a place where the virus has spread. The CDC itself says on its website that “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes.” However they add “social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours.” That’s the official guidance, but the CDC Director may not be aware of it?
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  • Blocked middle seats provided only 18 inches of spacing to the side of a passenger anyway.

CDC Director Refield says that failing to block middle seats sends the wrong message not that there’s any materially different level of risk. We’d all like more space. And anyone who wants an empty middle seat can buy one. I really don’t want anyone sitting close to me, so if I were traveling I’d definitely consider doing that.

But isn’t the most concerning thing here that we’re six months into this crisis and the U.S. CDC is just now reviewing protocols for limiting spread of the virus during air travel? Isn’t that the real scandal?