United Airlines joins coronavirus face mask valve ban

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United Airlines is the latest commercial air carrier to update its coronavirus-related personal protective equipment guidance to exclude face masks with built-in exhaust valves, the company announced Wednesday evening.

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The update will be effective starting on Friday, Aug. 7, a spokesperson from United told FOX Business.

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Face masks and any other protective face covering that have an opening or vent near the nose or mouth area will not be allowed on United’s planes or terminals it serves in more than 360 airports around the globe, and it will apply to both customers and United employees.

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(United Airlines)

United’s update comes the same day JetBlue announced it will also ban face masks and coverings with exhaust valves or vents. Delta Air Lines made its decision to prohibit the specified health care accessory last week.

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“Respirators with exhalation valves protect the wearer from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but may not prevent the virus spreading from the wearer to others,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently states in a PPE FAQ that was last updated on July 22.

The government-run health agency also clarified that “respirators with exhalation valves should not be used in situations where a sterile field must be maintained, like during an invasive procedure in an operating room, because the exhalation valve may allow unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the sterile field,” which may explain why United and other airlines have adjusted their guidance.

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At this time, there is not enough data to show how effective exhalation valve-equipped face masks and coverings are at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, the CDC wrote.

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(United Airlines)

United customers that do not have a mask the company has approved will receive a complimentary disposable mask that they can use instead.

In June, United announced it would suspend flight benefits for passengers who refuse to comply with its coronavirus mask and safety protocols while onboard.

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More than 4.8 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to data from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard.

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