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Southwest CEO tests positive for Covid after Senate hearing



Southwest Airlines Co Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly has tested positive for Covid-19, days after a US Senate hearing with other industry executives during which he appeared to downplay the effectiveness of face masks on planes.
Kelly, 66, “recently tested positive for Covid-19 after experiencing mild symptoms and taking a PCR test,” the Dallas-based airline said in a statement, referring to an analysis that checks for genetic material from the virus.
The test came after Kelly’s appearance in Washington, a spokesperson said. It also followed a trip to New York in which Kelly spoke to a packed audience at the Wings Club in Manhattan and met with groups of employees and others. He also met with Bloomberg News reporters and editors in New York and appeared on CNBC.
Kelly is the first known CEO of a major US airline to contract the virus, and his infection comes at a time when Southwest and others have ramped up capacity to meet domestic leisure demand that’s back to pre-pandemic levels at many carriers. Telecom giant Verizon Communications Inc said that its CEO, Hans Vestberg, tested positive recently.
Southwest’s CEO, who is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot, has mild symptoms and is doing well, the company said. Kelly garnered attention for his comments during the Senate hearing on the requirement for masks during flights, saying the hospital-like filtration systems remove most virus cells from the air on planes. “I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” Kelly said.
While Kelly’s comments led some to conclude he believed face coverings were unnecessary during flight, the executive clarified those remarks in a note to employees by saying
he agrees that masks have added an important layer of protection.
“We’ll continue to rely on the advice of our medical experts” regarding the need for them, he said, and there’s no effort underway to change the federal mask mandate before it expires on March 18.

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