Biden's New COVID Czar Has Bad News for America: Hated Mask Policy Is Likely to Stay


Are you a fan of Twitter videos documenting noisy showdowns between mask-less plane passengers and officious flight attendants? Have I got good news for you, thanks to President Joe Biden’s recently appointed COVID-19 czar.

According to the Daily Caller, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus-response coordinator, said Monday that the public transportation mask mandate imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Transportation Safety Administration isn’t going anywhere despite the fact it’s set to expire next week.

The reason? Because there’s another subvariant of SARS-CoV-2 and case numbers are rising. Of course.

(Here at The Western Journal, we’ve been monitoring how the goalposts have been constantly shifting on so many metrics involving getting back to normalcy under the Biden administration — particularly as it relates to the loathed transportation mask mandate. We’ll continue to hold the administration’s feet to the fire on this as it drags these policies out. If you support our work, please consider subscribing.)

To be clear, the extension of the transportation mask mandate isn’t finalized. However, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show Monday, Jha certainly sounded like the administration, and Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky, are coming down on the side of another extension.

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Extending the mask mandate is “a decision that the CDC director, Dr. Walensky, is going to make,” Jha, who took the COVID czar position in March, told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. “This is a CDC decision and I think it is absolutely on the table.”

“Throughout the entire pandemic, we’ve wanted to make decisions based on the evidence and science,” Jha continued, adding, “and that is what I expect we’ll do again this week, once we have that.”

Is it time for the transportation mask mandate to go?

Sadly, considering Jha has massive clout in the matter, an extension of the transportation mask mandate would be about as predictable as the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. Except the swallows would have little tiny N95s for their beaks and would all be triple-boosted, because that’s how Jha rolls.

As the Daily Caller noted when he was appointed COVID czar, Jha is best known as the architect of the two-week March 2020 lockdown that became colloquially known as “15 days to slow the spread.” The spread didn’t particularly slow and it’s been a little longer than 15 days, but he’s the public health professional and you aren’t, so shut your trap.

Even if that didn’t necessarily go as planned, Jha’s media profile certainly benefited.

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“In the first 14 months of the pandemic, despite not being a virologist, immunologist or vaccinologist, Jha either appeared or was cited on television news more than 60,000 times, according to TVEyes. He was making 10-12 TV appearances per day at his peak. He claims to have, at one point, been receiving more than 100 media requests per day,” the Daily Caller’s Dylan Housman noted in the March article.

“In those media appearances and tweets, Jha argued for policy in line with the mainstream COVID-19 orthodoxy, and at times has gone beyond it. He has been an advocate for kids masking in schools, and in February, when Democratic governors en masse began to drop mask mandates, said they should consider waiting a bit longer.”

He’s also called for air travel vaccine mandates and, as late as this January, argued indoor capacity limits were still a good idea.

Thankfully, Jha has lost most of these battles. The transportation mask mandate, first adopted in February 2021, according to NBC, is one area where he might not. In December, the Biden administration announced it would “extend its implementing orders to maintain [transportation masking] requirements through March 18.” In March, CNN reported, it extended it another month.

The mandate applies to “mass transportation including planes, trains, buses and hubs like airports,” CNN reported.

There’s plenty of evidence that the mandate is widely opposed.

On March 15, the Senate voted to kill the mandate by a 57-40 margin, according to Roll Call. (Republican Mitt Romney was the only member of the GOP to vote against it, go figure.)

On March 23, the CEOs of 10 major airlines appealed to the White House to drop it.

On March 29, 21 states sued the federal government to force an end to the mandate, as ABC News reported.

Congress has no power over the matter unless both houses can pass a bill by a veto-proof majority, which won’t happen. Meanwhile, buses, trains and airplanes remain three of the few places where mask mandates are still in effect.

This is despite the fact that airplanes are some of the most well-ventilated closed spaces there are and there’s no evidence of mass COVID transmission onboard planes — even though masks are often taken off when passengers eat and drink.

In the meanwhile, what we can expect is more tension between airline employees and passengers if the mandate is extended. It’ll be one of the last vestiges of the worst days of COVID.

Need more videos of snarky flight attendants ordering crying families off of a flight because they can’t get their 4-year-olds to keep their masks on? From what Ashish Jha is saying, you may be in luck.

For the rest of us, it certainly sounds like you’re going to have to keep masking up if you want to fly — despite a paucity of evidence that the mandate does anything but irk travelers.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture