Southwest and American airlines will no longer accept medical conditions as exemptions for wearing face masks.
In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the airlines are cracking down on their face mask policies. The United States surpassed 4 million confirmed cases on July 23, according to the Washington Post.
Southwest and American announced online they will be banning passengers who cite medical reasons as excuses to not wear masks. Both of the policies will go into effect next week and exempt children under the age of 2.
“Due to the safety risk of COVID-19 transmission by individuals not wearing a face covering, Southwest will require that all Southwest Customers wear a face covering or mask over their nose and mouth, and there will be no exemptions to our face covering requirement,” Southwest posted to its website on July 22.
“If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering or mask for any reason, Southwest regrets that we will be unable to transport the individual,” it added.
The online statement encouraged clients to bring their own face coverings while travelling, but noted that masks will be available at airports “upon request.”
Flyers will still able to take off their masks to eat, drink or take medicine, Southwest said.
“However, we expect those instances to be very brief, and Customers should put their face covering back on as soon as possible,” the statement reads.
The policy will go into effect July 27.
American echoed Southwest’s sentiments.
That same day, the airline posted a statement citing its new policy.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one of the best ways we can slow the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a face covering,” Alison Taylor, chief customer officer of American Airlines, said in the online statement.
“Customers and team members have been clear that they feel more safe when everyone is wearing a face covering. In light of this important feedback, we are expanding and enhancing our requirements onboard and at airports.”
The updated policy expands the requirement all areas of the airport operated by American.
“This updated policy expands American’s face covering requirement to include all areas of the airports at which American operates, including Admirals Club lounges, as well as on board all American flights and does not allow for exemptions for those over 2 years old,” the online release says.
Like Southwest, clients may remove their masks while eating or drinking.
Anyone who does not comply may be “barred from future travel” for the duration of the requirement, American said.
“Customers and team members have been clear that they feel more safe when everyone is wearing a face covering,” Taylor expressed in the statement.
Delta Plans to Provide At-Home Tests for Employees
Delta is also strengthening its approach to the coronavirus.
The Star Tribune reported that the airline will expand testing at its hub airports, as well as provide at-home tests for employees in Florida and Texas.
Reservation agents working outside of the hubs will also get tests, according to a statement obtained by the newspaper.
Delta announced earlier this week that passengers with mask medical exemptions must go through a new screening process, according to the airline’s website.
The “Clearance-To-Fly” process requires a virtual consultation “facilitated by a Delta agent with a third-party medical professional.”
“Medical research tells us that wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate,” the online statement says. “That’s why Delta remains committed to requiring customers and employees to wear a mask or face covering as a consistent layer of protection across all Delta touchpoints.”
The consultations may take up to one hour, Delta added.
The policy went into effect on July 20.
As Coronavirus Cases Continue to Surge, So Do Deaths, NYT Says
The New York Times reported that U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise each day.
“Public health experts have warned that the actual number of people infected is certainly far higher than the number of reported cases, and could be up to 13 times as high in some regions,” the newspaper stated.
More than 142,000 people have died from the virus so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On July 22, the agency reported 1,070 new deaths for that day alone, while the 7-day average of new cases was nearly 67,000.