Why You Need To Wear A Mask On A Plane Even If You Have Covid-19 Immunity – View from the Wing

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The idea of developing immunity from Covid-19 after you’ve had it isn’t new. And while antibodies seem to wane, that doesn’t mean immunity goes away. You may have memory T-cells fight off a new infection, too, although it’s possible your T-cells will just keep you from getting very sick rather than getting infected.

The CDC is finally acknowledging some immunity, but is taking a cautious approach. Even though immunity may last much longer, they’re saying you should be good for a year but they still advise distancing and mask wearing.

Since they’re only offering this in the context of saying someone who has recovered from the virus within the past 3 months doesn’t have to self-quarantine when exposed to someone with the virus, they’re not offering guidance on what practive activities someone should engage in after recovery.

Nonetheless, @RyanSchohr wants to know why people who have recovered have to wear masks on planes? Isn’t is just “feelings, image & marketing?”

What science supports the millions & millions of recovered & the 10s of Millions more asymptomatic & already recovered according to @CDCgov, being forced to wear masks? Evidently it’s feelings, image & marketing? @AirlinesDotOrg @SouthwestAir @weareunited @united @garyleff https://t.co/icOy0GLtDD

– Ryan Schohr (@RyanSchohr) August 14, 2020

It’s simple, really.

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  • When you approach someone who doesn’t know you, whether on a plane or in a grocery store, they don’t know you’ve had the virus and recovered.
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  • People with lab-confirmed positives in the past, followed by lab-confirmed negatives, don’t have green ‘no mask’ lights above their heads. Immunity passports won’t work for travel and ‘no mask passports’ are logistically even more problematic.
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  • There’s no practical way for an airline to enforce a mask rule ‘only for those people who cannot spread the virus’.

Someone who cannot get the virus can’t spread it either. Assuming that the presence of antibodies (let alone t-cells, b-cells, or other immune system properties) form immunity for some period of time, a person won’t make others sick without wearing a mask.

However to reduce the spread of the virus many governments, businesses, and individuals have decided to require everyone to wear a mask. It’s a simple low cost approach, far less intrusive than a government shut down. It’s the conservative alternative to heavy-handed government health measures. And private businesses are certainly entitled to require this as a condition of service.

Go let friends and family know you’ve had the virus and recovered, and visit with them if you wish and they’re comfortable. Go dine inside restaurants without a mask where that’s permitted (ideally with other people who are similarly immune). Go work out at the gym, go to newly re-opened movie theaters, following the rules that those places have. Many businesses are open that people are cautiously avoiding – someone confirmed to have had and recovered from the virus recently likely doesn’t need to do that.

Understand that the only way to have a mask mandate is for the mandate to apply to everyone, and that mandate is in many cases the only alternative to stricter measures. Whether you agree with that scientifically or not you need to at least acknowledge that as the political reality. And that’s why an anti-masker should, I think, support mask wearing because it’s less intrusive than the policies that would happen otherwise.