Beginning this week, Delta Air Lines has banned the use of face masks featuring exhalation valves onboard its aircraft. While these are often marketed as N95 masks, the one-way valve variety risks spreading virus particles further than if no mask was worn at all.
Evolution of mask policies
The face mask saga keeps evolving. At first, it was a matter of whether or not to allow flight attendants to wear their own masks to feel safe at work. Then came the request that passengers bring their own.
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Subsequently, some airlines came to see the supplying of masks as a potential leg-up on their competitors in terms of service. Facial coverings soon became mandatory with most airlines, albeit with patchwork enforcement.
As some passengers, one or two as a means of publicity, would refuse to wear one, confusion and delays ensued. This led to a more stringent application of the rules, with some airlines barring those with medical conditions preventing them from wearing a face mask from flying.
Delta Air Lines still allow exemptions if a medical certificate is supplied, and the passenger goes through a potentially hour-long pre-boarding process called “Clearance to Fly.” However, the airline is now the first to have banned face masks that feature an exhaust valve.
“Any mask with an exhaust valve is not approved as an acceptable face mask for customers traveling on any Delta operated flight,” the airline’s newest policy reads.
The one-way valve lets particles escape
The masks with one-way valves are designed to facilitate easier exhaling. They are usually worn by people working in industrial environments to protect them from dangerous particles. Not to keep them from spreading a virus.
However, these valves can also allow droplets to escape. In fact, it seems they can even help propel particles further than if the wearer was without a mask. Since face masks, as it relates to corona, should be worn primarily to protect others from potential contagion from the wearer, this rather defeats their purpose.
N95 masks that are designed for medical environments don't have a valve on the front. The one you bought on Amazon probably does.
— Brenton (@appsforartists) April 20, 2020
They are often marketed as N95 masks. However, the proper N95 masks used by medical staff are known as “filtering facepiece respirators.” While some of them feature a valve, it has closure and is only opened in safe environments so as not to keep removing and refitting the mask.
Masks should be fitted properly
On Wednesday, a man was reportedly removed from a Delta Air Lines flight from Aruba to Atlanta after refusing to adjust his mask appropriately. While the exact nature of the failure to comply with proper mask etiquette remains unknown, one could imagine it may have looked something like this.
Mask on. Seatbelt on. This is the way.
But remember to keep your nose covered. That is actually the way. pic.twitter.com/O85OusVL1V
— Delta (@Delta) July 24, 2020
For masks to be effective, the most commonly used means of respirations, meaning the nostrils, also need to be covered. A fact that seems to be a source of contention more often than one would have imagined.
Flight turned around and passengers banned
Delta has a hardline policy against non-compliance with its mask regulations. A little over, a Delta flight heading from Detroit Metro Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport turned around mid-air after two passengers refused to wear face masks. Over 100 people have already been put on the carrier’s no-fly list as a result of refusing to wear one on board its planes.
Simple Flying has contacted Delta for a comment on the decision to banned valved masks but was yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.