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Autistic girl, 15, ‘removed from flight for not wearing face mask’


An Oregon family on a Texas-bound Southwest Airlines flight said their autistic daughter was removed because she was not wearing a face mask, report says.

The Cleary family had already boarded their flight from Portland, Oregon, to San Jose, California, this week when the crew asked 15-year-old Mya to wear a face mask or be kicked off.

KNTV reports that Mya has autism and sensory sensitivity, which can make wearing a proper face mask for extended periods of time difficult.

‘She was really upset, crying, she was so excited for the ride and for the trip,’ her father, Tim Cleary, told KNTV.

Cleary had explained Mya’s disabilities to the Southwest crew, but they insisted Mya must wear a face covering, per their company guidelines

The family of Mya (left), a 15-year-old with autism, said she was asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight because she was not wearing a face mask. Pictured: Mya and Jennifer Tharpe

Southwest Airlines does not not accept medical conditions as an exemption to wearing face masks while onboard

Mya and her mother, Jennifer Tharpe, were forced off the flight while the rest of their family traveled to their vacation in San Jose.

‘This isn’t like we’re protesting masks or anything,’ Tharpe told KNTV, adding that Mya will wear face masks, but they feel increasingly restrictive due to her disability.

‘My daughter cannot wear the mask, and I think there should be, and I thought that there were exceptions for people who can’t comply with that,’ she told KNTV.

Tharpe admitted that the pilot was remorseful, but senior officials determined that pair could not fly without the face mask – regardless of circumstances.      

‘We were looking forward to this, but everything went wrong. I just assumed it would be no different from when she’s gone into a grocery store or a doctor’s appointment,’ Tharpe told KNTV. 

Southwest Airlines, like all major airlines, implemented coronavirus-era health guidelines when the federal government failed to do so.  

The Texas-based company has required customers to wear face masks during all aspects of flight, like checking in, boarding, while aboard the plane and baggage claim. 

While Southwest Airlines included a provision stating children aged two and under were exempt from face masks, the same was not done for disabled travelers.

Tim Cleary (center) with Mya (left): ‘The was really upset, crying, she was so excited for the ride and for the trip’

Jennifer Tharpe (right): ‘My daughter cannot wear the mask, and I think there should be, and I thought that there were exceptions for people who can’t comply with that’

‘If a Customer is unable to wear a face covering for any reason (even a verifiable medical condition), we regret that we are unable to transport the Customer at this time, due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by Customers without face coverings,’ its website read.

‘In other words, because of public health guidance recognizing the important role of face coverings in preventing the transmission of COVID-19, Southwest will temporarily refuse to transport any passenger who is unable to wear a mask even if the Customer has a verifiable medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.​’ 

Eating and drinking were the only exceptions to face mask coverage. 

This goes against recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which argued for exemptions in similar situations.

‘Wearing masks may be difficult for some people with sensory, cognitive, or behavioral issues,’ the CDC website said.

 A petition was  created to encourage Southwest Airlines to allow medical conditions, like austism, to be exempted from stringnet health guidelines

‘If they are unable to wear a mask properly or cannot tolerate a mask, they should not wear one, and adaptations and alternatives should be considered.’

Mya’s family noted the CDCs recommendation when speaking out against Southwest Airlines and the experience. 

Jennifer Clymer, a passenger on the Southwest Airlines flight, told KNTV that other witnesses were bothered by the exchange.

‘We were all very unhappy and thought it was very unfair that the family couldn’t take a trip just because an autistic child didn’t understand why she had to wear a mask,’ Clymer said.

The discontent has spread among some Southwest Airlines customers, including Chana Bennett-Rumley, a mother whose two sons have austism.

Bennett-Rumbley started a petition to urge Southwest Airlines to change its current policies to be more inclusive. The petition has amassed 18,222 signatures out of a goal of 25,000.’

Southwest Airlines’ broad measures mirrored those of several other companies who did not make exemptions for people with medical conditions.

That list included Spirit Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue Airlines, which said no exemptions would be provided unless the individual is a child aged two and under.

‘No other exemptions will be provided, and all other customers must wear a proper face covering during their travel,’ JetBlue’s website read.

United Airlines this summer ended medical exemptions, but those who believe they have ‘extraordinary circumstances’ should contact the airline before their flight, or talk to customer service to verify the exemption. 

At Delta Airlines, those with medical conditions that prevent mask wearing must undergo a pre-departue medical screening.

Making false claims about medical conditions or disabilities could also see passengers suspended.  

Hawaii Airlines has a similar procedure that required passengers with medical conditions who cannot wear a mask to complete an assessment with a medical professional at the airport.

As of Thursday morning, the United States has surpassed 11.5million cases and 250,000 deaths.

Health experts fear post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID-19 infections as AAA predicts 50 MILLION Americans will travel for the holidays


An estimated 50 million Americans are planning to defy COVID-19 warnings and travel to join friends and family this year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

The figure is 10 per cent down from last year, and shows the largest drop since 2008, the height of the global financial crisis.

AAA published the predictions in a Thursday report, using economic forecasting and research from IHS Markit to make the calculations.

The findings defined this year’s Thanksgiving holiday travel period as the five-day stretch from Wednesday November 25 to Sunday November 29.

Thanksgiving travel will be down 10% from 2019 (pictured is New York’s Penn station last year)

Traffic jams on Thanksgiving Eve, 2019: the majority will travel by car this year too

They said their calculations were to be taken with some caution, as the actual figure will vary depending on the course of the worsening pandemic.

Wednesday saw the worst-ever day for new cases, with 143,408 new infections confirmed, and 94 per cent of states are seeing surges. The death rate is expected to spike in coming weeks, following on from the new infections.

‘Based on mid-October forecast models, AAA would have expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving – a drop from 55 million in 2019,’ the group said.

‘However, as the holiday approaches and Americans monitor the public health landscape, including rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and CDC travel health notices, AAA expects the actual number of holiday travelers will be even lower.’

Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said many people had not yet made up their minds.

‘The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,’ she said.

‘The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.’

The AAA found that most people intend to travel by car, with 95 per cent of all travelers during the period – 47.8 million people – making the journey by road.

Public health experts say that it is a significantly safer way to travel, and advise minimal stops, plus pre-packed snacks and drinks.

Commercial air travel will be dramatically down, with just 2.4 million flying to their destination, AAA said.

The figure is the largest one-year drop on record and holiday airfares are said to be at their lowest in three years.

Airlines, having suffered immensely during the pandemic, are still hoping beyond hope that people choose to fly, and are emphasizing both the safety of their aircraft and the hygiene measures they are taking.

United Airlines is adding 1,400 flights, and American Airlines will fly more than 500 additional flights daily.

Advice from experts is not in travelers’ favor, however.

People get tested on Thursday at the new saliva testing site at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport

A woman is tested at a Las Vegas drive-through testing site on Thursday

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns even ‘small household gatherings are an important contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases.’

The agency recommends getting a flu shot, hosting small gatherings outside, wearing a mask and staying out of tight spaces like kitchens.

‘When people get together indoors, eating, drinking, talking, shouting, singing, that’s unfortunately how to spread a lot of COVID, especially when people are traveling around,’ said Tom Frieden, former CDC Director.

‘Please be more careful around Thanksgiving so that we can have a merry Christmas, otherwise there’s a real chance that we’re going to see explosive spread of COVID throughout December as a result of the Thanksgiving holidays.’

Others have taken the message even further.

Travelers wait to board an Amtrak train to Albany on Wednesday November 27, 2019

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has already decided that he will be having a ‘very, very closed family type of thing’ and even his daughters will not be present.

He said they are staying at home because they live in ‘disparate parts of the country’ where there are concerning levels of COVID-19 infection.

Fauci has three adult children with his wife, Christine Grady: Jennifer, 34, Megan, 31 and Alison, 28.

‘We would love for them to come home for Thanksgiving,’ said Fauci, who lives in Washington DC.

‘They have said themselves: “Dad, you know you’re a young, vigorous guy, but you’re 79 years old.”‘

Instead, Fauci’s daughters said: ‘We want you and mommy to have a nice, quiet dinner,’ he recalled, speaking at an October virtual seminar hosted by American University’s Kennedy Political Union.

‘Maybe have a neighbor next door that always comes over the house that you know that’s negative, and we’ll send our love via Zoom.’

Fauci added: ‘I’m not going to criticize people who do it differently, but look at the individual situation in your own family and make a decision that way.’

A highway to San Francisco on the eve of Thanksgiving in 2019: this year 47.8 million will drive

Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, on Thursday imposed a 30-day stay-at-home order, and said people should not be in groups at all indoors, including for Thanksgiving dinners.

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, said people should not be gathering at all.

‘If you are asking for my advice, I have said publicly that my personal advice is you don’t have family gatherings, even for Thanksgiving,’ he said.

‘I don’t want to endanger our family or our friends, so we’ll celebrate virtually.’

Republicans in his home state have already said they won’t comply.

‘I’ll be having more than 10 ppl at my house on Thanksgiving. My address is public record. Some family will come from (gasp!) New Jersey,’ tweeted Joe Borelli, a Staten Island councilor.

‘Kids will see their grandparents, cousins will play in the yard, sis in law will bring strawberry rhubarb pie, & a turkey will be overcooked,’ he added.

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