Health

Don’t ditch your masks just yet

On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department appealed a judge’s ruling ending a mask mandate on public transportation and airplanes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the measure was still needed.

This comes after a U.S. district judge ruled that mandates, which apply to planes, trains, and other public transportation, were unlawful.

The CDC said it asked the Justice Department to proceed with the appeal and that “an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health.”

Airlines and airports, bus lines, and Amtrak dropped the mandate Monday evening within hours of the TSA announcing that it would no longer enforce the mandate, which was set to expire on May 3.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration released the latest unruly passenger numbers. It also announced that the agency’s zero-tolerance policy against unruly passengers would now be permanent.

Mask mandate off. For now.

On Monday a federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s mandate requiring masks to be worn in airports, on airplanes, trains, buses, and on other forms of public transportation.

The ruling is being reviewed. But late Monday, the Transportation Security Administration issued a statement informing the public that:

Due to today’s court ruling, effective immediately, TSA will no longer enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs. TSA will also rescind the new Security Directives that were scheduled to take effect tomorrow. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.

TSA’s announcement was followed by messages from airports and airlines saying they too would no longer enforce the mask mandate.

Here are a couple of airport tweets on the subject. Note the tweet from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) where masks are still required.

Airlines were pretty quick to declare that they would no longer be requiring passengers to wear masks on board either.

American Airlines, Alaska Airines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines and most every other airline issued a statement and/or sent out a social media post.

You may – and maybe should – still wear a mask when you travel

While masks may no longer be required when traveling, it may still be a good idea to wear a mask in busy airports and on airplanes and on public transporation to and from the airport.

Coronavirus infections are on the rise in many communities and you, or someone around you, may be immunocompromised and easily susceptible to the current COVID variant, the flu, or whatever else may be going around.

There are also still a lot of unvaccinated people out there. So wearing a mask is an easy way to protect yourself and those around you.

If you decide to no longer wear a mask when traveling, please be respectful of those who continue to wear them.

Mask Mandate Extension + Stricter COVID-19 Rules for Travelers

Update 12/2/21: Here are the new travel-related mandates and rules issued by the White House as part of a larger plan to address the Delta and Omicron variants this winter.

From the announcement:

  1. Stronger Public Health Protocols for Safe International Travel: Last month, the Administration implemented stronger international travel protocols, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated. The very day the WHO identified the new Omicron variant, the Biden Administration took immediate steps to restrict travel from the countries in the region where it was confirmed to be spreading quickly.
  • Strengthening global pre-departure testing protocols: Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.
  • Extending the requirement to wear a mask on airplanes, rail travel, and public transportation: The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18. The Transportation Security Administration will extend its implementing orders to maintain these requirements through March 18. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the masking requirements – with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.

Wednesday evening, Reuters and other news outlets were reporting that on Thursday, President Joe Biden will extend through mid-March the mask mandate for travelers at airports, and on airplanes, on trains and in train stations, and on buses. The current mandate was set to expire on January 18.  The mandate also covers ships, ferries, and seaports, subways and subway stations, taxis, and ride-hailing services.

Travelers who do not comply are subject to fines.

But wait, there’s more.

In response to concerns about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the White House is also expected to announce stricter testing rules for air travelers entering or returning to the United States, including reducing the pre-flight Covid testing window to just one day prior to travel.

Right now, vaccinated international air travelers can enter the U.S. with a negative COVID test result taken within three days before the flight’s departure.

We’ll know more about this on Thursday, but it is likely to wreak quite the havoc with international travel plans as we head into the December holidays and the new year.

San Antonio Int’l Airport lights up

Yes, it looks pretty. But this month the lights at San Antonio International Airport (SAT) are supporting two important national campaigns: Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness.

SAT is turning its lights pink to acknowledge Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The airport is partnering with local groups to promote the “Real Men Wear Pink campaign. The campaign raises money for breast cancer research and encourages men and women to get breast exams.

SAT is also participating in the Purple Porch SA Initiative. This campaign raises awareness about domestic violence and the airport’s lights are turning purple to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The lights will alternate between purple and pink until October 31.

As part of the the local campaign, a sculpture made of bras and ties is being commissioned.

Travelers are invited to donate to the sculpture’s creation by dropping bras and ties in bins placed at the information desks in the baggage claim areas of both SAT terminals.

We suggest bringing your donations along with you; not undressing on site.

The sculpture will be unveiled next year and then travel around the city and state to raise awareness of the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

The last day to donate bras or ties is October 31.

Mask minders at Tampa Int’l Airport

Flying somewhere over the holiday weekend? If so, keep in mind that the federal mask mandate requiring travelers to stay masked up on airplanes and in airports has been extended into January 2022.

Tampa International Airport (TPA) takes that rule seriously and is actively enforcing it.

In its newsletter, TPA shared that its Operations, Guest Services, and other frontline team members do regular “mask enforcement blitzes” during which about 15 employees periodically walk the terminals to remind travelers of the mask rule and offer maks to those who need them.

Good work TPA!

Even if you have your own mask we encourage everyone to bring along or accept a spare. After a few hours wearing one mask, it is good to switch it out for another.