Fauci pushes masks, vaccine mandates for airline travel in apparent shot against industry

Some airline executives have suggested masks are unnecessary on flights, while the Biden administration has resisted a vaccine mandate for airline travel.

Updated: December 27, 2021 - 8:56am

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's chief infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden's COVID-19 adviser, is suggesting it is time to impose a vaccine mandate for airline travel to strong-arm more Americans to get inoculations.

"A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated; namely, you can't get on a plane unless you're vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be," Fauci said during an interview Sunday with ABC News.

Fauci also took issue with U.S. airlines executives who recently suggested to Congress masks are no longer needed to fly.

"We want to make sure people keep their masks on. I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering," he said. 

Federal regulators currently require all airlines passengers to wear masks but have not moved toward a vaccine requirement for U.S. air travel.

Fauci also warned the new omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is "extraordinarily contagious" and may overwhelm America's medical system even though its symptoms are less severe.

"If you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people," he explained.

"And we're particularly worried about those who are in that unvaccinated class ... those are the most vulnerable ones when you have a virus that is extraordinarily effective in getting to people."