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Spirit Airlines reiterated its policy of only wearing masks approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a video posted on Friday showing a guest refusing to wear anything other than their own neck seal, which does not conform to CDC standards.
The video that the passenger in question captured and shared on social media last week shows a flight attendant asking a man with an American flag neck seal if he wears a mask underneath because the gaiter itself does not meet the requirements with Spirit or the CDC mask guidelines.
“Our flight attendants asked the guest in this video to double his gaiter,” the airline said in a statement posted on social media on Friday. “When he refused, they offered him an alternative face covering, and he declined that option too.”
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“What’s wrong with my mask?” The passenger asked before repeatedly telling the flight attendant to “show me these rules”.
“I don’t have to wear the mask you gave me,” he added. “I’m wearing the mask that I have. … I’ve been on 20 flights with this exact mask.”
The flight attendant reiterated that the gaiter did not meet safety standards and said the airline would “keep the authorities waiting for you when we land”.
USA TODAY asked Spirit for more information.
The airline’s statement states that Spirit’s policies are in line with CDC guidelines and require face coverings that “tightly cover the nose and mouth, are secure under the chin, and have at least two layers of fabric. The CDC warns that gaiters may be are not effective so guests must either double the neck gaiters to double-layer them and hug the chin or switch to a standard auricle. “
Spirit also confirmed comments online claiming the flight attendant was punishing the passenger for wearing an American flag instead of refusing to wear a mask that met their guidelines.
“Spirit Airlines proudly welcomes anyone on board who wishes to show their pride with an American flag on a face covering that complies with our policy,” said the airline’s statement.
The CDC does not recommend using gaiters to protect against the novel coronavirus. “Evaluation of these face coverings is ongoing, but its effectiveness is currently unknown,” said the CDC website in an August 27 update.
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Masks with two or more layers are recommended to prevent the spread of germs. A recent Duke University study of the effectiveness of different types of face coverings found that neck gaiters were worse than no mask at all: the porous fabric can break down the larger particles into smaller ones that stay in the air longer than large droplets.
Warren S. Warren, a professor of physics, chemistry, and radiology at Duke who co-authored the research, noted that the study was not a large-scale clinical trial, so the results cannot be generalized. The result for the gaiter, which is a single layer of a polyester-spandex blend, was worse, as the most comfortable masks are usually thin and don’t block these particles well.
“If we look at the gaiter we used, for example, if you hold the individual layer up to a light that is as stretched as it would be if you were wearing it, you can see light through it,” Warren said. The feeling is that in this case it doesn’t do a very good job of protecting the people around. “
Contributors: Karina Zaiets and Karl Gelles
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