As COVID Deaths Soar in Texas, Ted Cruz Seen Without a Mask on Commercial Flight

Social media was abuzz over the weekend after an image of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appeared to show him on a plane without a mask on.

The picture features Cruz in first class seating on an American Airlines-affiliated flight, holding a coffee and looking at his phone. The senator is not wearing a mask in the picture, nor is one visible nearby within the frame of the image.

American Airlines policy during this stage of the coronavirus pandemic is for passengers to wear masks while sitting in the cabin. Exceptions are allowed if individuals are eating or drinking while seated.

“Consistent with airline policy, [Cruz] temporarily removes the mask while eating or drinking,” the senator’s spokesperson Lauren Aronson said on Monday. “Yesterday, during his flight he removed his mask to drink and put it back on afterward. We should all practice common sense measures to slow the spread of the virus.”

Whether Cruz’s actions were consistent with the policy or not beyond the picture being taken is unknown. But according to polling from Gallup published on Monday, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched for someone who has the same political leanings as Cruz to fail to wear masks or facial coverings when they’re supposed to, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines or private businesses’ rules.

Gallup asked Americans in its poll about their mask or facial covering usage habits as a means to quell the spread of coronavirus. Among all respondents, 72 percent said they wear a mask “always” or “very often.” Fifteen percent said they only wear such coverings “sometimes” or “rarely,” while 14 percent said they “never” wear a mask or facial covering.

Across political divides, a majority of Democratic and independent respondents also said they “always” or “very often” wear facial coverings, with 94 percent and 68 percent saying so, respectively. Republican participants in the poll, however, were far less likely to say they wore masks.

Only 46 percent of Republicans said they “always” or “very often” wore facial coverings. Conversely, 27 percent said they “sometimes” or “rarely” wore them, with another 27 percent saying they never did, meaning a majority of Republican respondents told Gallup they wore masks less than “very often” when they were in public spaces.

Masks and facial coverings have become a political line in the sand for many, due in large part to President Donald Trump’s aversion to being seen wearing one.

For most of the time coronavirus has been a concern in the United States, Trump has expressed an unwillingness to put one on, stating that he didn’t feel he could command respect from other world leaders if he did. Last month, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump also suggested that masks were being worn out of spite toward him by those who felt it would signal disapproval of his presidency.

Finally on Saturday, several months after the crisis began (and after 3.3 million Americans had been diagnosed with COVID-19), Trump wore a mask on his face for the first time while in public during a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. For many, doing so was too little, too late.

“Donald Trump spent months ignoring the advice of medical experts and politicizing wearing a mask, one of the most important things we can do to prevent the spread of the virus,” Andrew Bates, spokesperson for Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden, said. “Rather than taking responsibility and leading, he wasted four months that Americans have been making sacrifices by stoking divisions and actively discouraging people from taking a very basic step to protect each other.”