Masks are no longer required at US airports or on airplanes after a Tampa District Court judge ruled on Monday that the mask mandate for airlines goes beyond the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The change is effective immediately, which means the Transportation Security Administration will no longer require airport employees, aircraft crew, passengers or customers at all U.S. airports and aircraft to wear masks.
Since the changes were announced, a number of major US airlines, including United, Southwest and Delta, have officially announced that they are dropping their mask mandates. “We are relieved to see the lifting of the US mask mandate to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus – with better treatments, vaccines and other science-based measures to prevent serious illness,” said Delta in a statement. The airline also noted that its employees and customers can continue to wear masks « if they wish ». Uber ride-sharing service too announcement today that due to the decision, it is no longer necessary for drivers or passengers to wear masks.
The new decision was made by Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by Donald Trump before President Joe Biden took office. Justice Mizelle previously worked as a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, who is widely considered the most conservative member of the Supreme Court. His decision, in the form of a 59 page decisionhas been criticized by some experts, such as Laurence Tribe, a jurist who is professor emeritus at Harvard University, who tweeted that his opinion is « filled with unsubstantiated medical claims ».
The Biden administration also criticized Justice Mizelle’s ruling. Just last week, the administration extended the mandate on transportation networks until May 3 due to the spike caused by the BA.2 subvariant. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a Monday press briefing that the judge’s ruling was a disappointment. “The CDC has recommended continuing with the order for an additional period of time – two weeks – to be able to evaluate the latest scientific findings in accordance with its responsibility to protect the American people. So this is obviously a disappointing decision,” Psaki mentioned. According to the CDC Data, as of March 16, BA.2 was estimated to account for 74% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, while BA.1 (the original omicron variant) accounted for only 6.1%. During the briefing, PSAki also recommended that people wear masks to stay safe. “So we would say to everyone sitting there: we recommend that you wear masks on the plane,” Psaki said.
Although COVID-19 can definitely be forwarded during air travel, there is not enough evidence to suggest that the chances of catching it on an airplane are higher. To research found that the risk of catching COVID-19 while traveling by air is lower than in an office, train, classroom or grocery store. This is because the flow of oxygen in airplanes is significantly faster than in indoor buildings, and high-efficiency particulate air filters capture most of the circulating particles. Additionally, the high seats act as a partial barrier, with most passengers not having face-to-face contact. However, with the recent emergence of the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant and the lack of research into how it might be spread during air travel, you may feel safer if you continue to wear a mask. during air travel. Also, you might feel safer continuing to wear a mask at an airport, where risks of transmission of COVID-19 are higher than in an airplane. Whether or not you choose to continue wearing a mask, it’s a good idea to carry a mask with you when traveling internationally, as mask mandates are likely to still be in place in other countries.