Masks

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.

CDC extends mask order through May 3, 2022

If you’re planning to travel by plane, train, or public bus, don’t put away those face masks just yet.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that it is extending the mask mandate that was set to expire on April 18 by 15 days, through at least May 3, 2022. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will continue enforcing the order.

The reason? CDC is monitoring the spread of the Omicron variant, especially the BA.2 subvariant. And cases are rising.

“Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the U.S. The CDC Mask Order remains in effect while CDC assesses the potential impact of the rise of cases on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare system capacity,” the CDC said in a statement.

CDC also said it will update its Travel Health Notice system for international destinations, beginning April 18.

“[T]his new system will reserve Level 4 travel health notices for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, or healthcare infrastructure collapse.,” the CDC announced.

“Levels 3, 2, and 1 will continue to be primarily determined by 28-day incidence or case counts. With this new configuration, travelers will have a more actionable alert for when they should not travel to a certain destination (Level 4), regardless of vaccination status, until we have a clearer understanding of the COVID-19 situation at that destination.”

Bottom line: pay attention. This COVID thing is not over.

“No warnings”: FAA getting tough with passengers who are unruly or won’t wear masks

Citing “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Wednesday it will ratchet up its legal enforcement policies.

“These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol, ” the FAA said in a statement.

The FAA says up to now it has been addressing unruly passenger incidents with warnings, counseling, and civil penalties. (Counseling?)

But effective immediately and through at least March 30, 2021, “the agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.”

That legal enforcement may include fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment.

There have been some scary incidents onboard planes recently. Including on Friday, January 8, two days after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, when an American Airlines pilot threatened to put the plane down “in the middle of Kansas” in response to chanting, unruly passengers.