America’s mask mandates are racing toward what may be their final frontier: transportation.
In less than a month, face masks will be phased out on planes, airports and other public transport. It could have happened sooner if American Airlines had had a say.
Airlines including Delta, American, United and Southwest, as well as cargo carriers and the U.S. airline industry group, have called for an end to mask requirements on public transportation and pre-travel testing requirements for international arrivals to the U.S.
“It’s time to dismantle transportation policy in the age of the coronavirus,” they said in a recent letter to the White House.
Disputes have erupted on some flights over face masks, and flight attendants have faced unprecedented attacks to enforce federal rules. The Association of Flight Attendants (CWA), the country’s largest flight attendants union, isn’t taking one side or the other to overturn the mask mandate — it has members on both sides of the issue. Southwest’s flight attendant union has called for an end to the mission.
Many in the travel industry are understandably keen to make it as easy as possible for more travelers to relocate two years into the pandemic.
But what do doctors and disease transmission experts think about lifting coronavirus precautions? For one thing, it’s not all or nothing.
Travelers can still protect themselves, and rules can be gradually relaxed or reinstated if cases increase significantly. Cases in the U.S. have recently stabilized after nearly two months of decline, and health officials are keeping a close eye on the BA.2 omicron variant.