Fully Vaxxed, Boosted Southwest CEO Doubts Mask Efficacy, Catches COVID

December 21, 2021

By Corinne Murdock |

Fully vaccinated and boosted Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly caught COVID-19 a day after insisting during last Wednesday’s Senate hearing that masks don’t offer much protection against the virus on planes. Kelly’s spokespersons reported his symptoms as minimal.

“I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” said Kelly. “It’s very safe and high-quality compared to any other indoor setting.” 

Planes rely on a filtration system that the Defense Department reported as making the risk of transmission low.

Surgical and cloth masks have limited potential for preventing aerosolized COVID-19 particles from potentially being breathed in or out by the wearer. Breathing and talking emit particles about the size of 1 micron. COVID-19 alone tends to be around .1 microns in size, ranging from as small as .06 microns to .14 microns; surgical masks can filter out particles sized at 2.5 microns or greater. Their greatest effect is to block larger respiratory droplets containing COVID-19, such as those within coughs or sneezes that are typically 5 microns or bigger. 

N95 masks may provide greater efficacy because they’re rated to filter out 95 percent of particles sized .3 microns or greater. 

Following the hearing, Kelly released a statement reiterating his support for the federal mandate for masks on planes.

Kelly tested negative for the virus  multiple times prior to the hearing.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby sat on either side of Kelly at the hearing. Spokespersons for both companies confirmed that both CEOs tested negative on Friday.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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