For at least a moment Monday night, air travel was fun again.
Passengers on flight after flight erupted in joy as they learned that after a federal judge put the kibosh on the Biden administration’s attempt to extend mask mandates on air travel, airline after airline ended the mandates many had been begging to end.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida ruled that the mandate goes beyond the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Delta pilot announces end of the mask mandate just before takeoff, passengers cheer. pic.twitter.com/MUkRIHAtO4
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) April 19, 2022
The government had claimed the rule was vital to sanitation on mass transit. Mizelle rejected that idea.
“Wearing a mask cleans nothing. At most, it traps virus droplets. But it neither ‘sanitizes’ the person wearing the mask nor ‘sanitizes’ the conveyance,” Mizelle wrote, according to The Washington Post.
And the skies echoed with cheers.
?MASK MANDATE LIFTED?
Myself, and a couple hundred others, just learned mid-flight that the mask mandate is over?!
The @Delta Airlines staff just got on the intercom to announce the mandate is lifted and now optional!
— Dillon Thomas (@DillonMThomas) April 19, 2022
But not so much along Pennsylvania Avenue.
“This is obviously a disappointing decision,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, according to the Post.
But for travelers, it was a day of freedom.
“Just take them off,” Simon Rojas, 29, of Laurel, Maryland, told the Post. “In the news, they’ve been saying the death rate is going down, right? Also, I think if you’re in such a closed space like a plane, that mask isn’t doing anything.”
One flight attendant almost cried at going mask-free after two years.
Plane applauded as the stewardess announced the end of the mandate. She broke into tears as she got to take off her mask for the first time in 2 years ? pic.twitter.com/WlCpZk30QM
— Kyle Mann (@The_Kyle_Mann) April 19, 2022
But some people do not agree.
“I still don’t understand a Florida judge reversing a federal mandate when the mandate is backed by as much science as it is,” Phil Delin, 67, of Prince George’s County, Maryland, said, told the Post, adding he would continue to wear his mask.
Major U.S. airlines announced almost immediately that masks would now be optional, NBC News reported.
However, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, an infection control expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, wrote a commentary published by CNN Tuesday declaring, in essence, that “science” is giving way to appeasement. Its headline: “Opinion: Air passengers, keep your masks on.”
“Though the facts clearly demonstrate the prudence of delaying the end of the mask mandate, a choice echoed by the ongoing airline chaos in Europe, I continue to worry that the CDC ultimately will be cornered into doing the wrong thing — or forced to comply with the federal judge’s latest ruling on the matter before the Biden administration can appeal,” he wrote.
?#BREAKING: Masks No Longer Required on Planes or trains
Today TSA said it will no longer enforce mask mandate on planes/trains As Travelers can take off the masks for now. As Delta, Alaska, and United Airlines will no longer require masks on flights pic.twitter.com/G9zPHEQBly
— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) April 19, 2022
Sepkowitz wrote that wishing the virus to go away will not make it so.
“The country has slid into ‘move on from Covid-19’ mode, embracing the magical thinking that, by ignoring the virus, it will go away, misconstruing our collective fatigue as an indication of finality. And the airplane tantrum reports, however despicable, are demoralizing somehow — clear-cut evidence of a tattered social fabric. The path to a quieter summer — at least in newspaper headlines — is to look the other way and hope nothing disastrous happens,” he wrote, noting that regardless of what the final outcome of the case should be, he will still wear a mask on an airplane.
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