Masks Still Required for Air Travel Despite CDC's Guidance Change

Masks Still Required for Air Travel Despite CDC's Guidance Change
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 4, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
Jack Phillips
A federal mask mandate for airline passengers will remain intact despite a rule issued Feb. 25 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ease mask guidance in other settings.

The mask mandate for airline passengers and airports, issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), remains in effect until at least March 18, when it expires. The mandate could still be extended.

“The mask requirement remains in place, and we will continue to assess the duration of the requirement in consultation with CDC,” TSA spokeswoman Alexa Lopez told news outlets on Feb. 25.

The TSA mandate was announced in January 2021 in the early days of the Biden administration, although U.S. airlines have been required to mandate that passengers wear masks since 2020.

Under the CDC's announcement, masking mandates have even been dropped in schools and school buses in areas where there are low levels of COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union said it expects that the mask mandate for air travelers will be extended again.

"The conditions in aviation are the same," the union said in a statement. "Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine. The airplane is a unique, but controlled environment for everyone's safety. The layered approach to safety and security includes masks. Aviation is a world-wide network that harmonizes safety procedures around the world. It’s also critical that we maintain passenger confidence in the safety of air travel."

During remarks last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that about three-quarters of Americans don't have to wear masks because they live in communities with medium or low risk from the virus.

“This updated approach focuses on directing our prevention efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe ailments and preventing hospitals and health care systems from being overwhelmed,” Walensky told reporters on a call.

Walensky said her agency “came up with these indicators, including new hospital admissions and hospital beds utilized, and complimented them with case incidents to really create a package of metrics to be able to understand what’s happening at the local level.”

Throughout the pandemic, the efficacy of masks—especially cloth masks—has been questioned. Although federal health agencies say studies show they are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, critics have said those papers' conclusions are flawed.
As of Feb. 22, there have been more than 600 reports of unruly passengers so far this year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. About 397 of such incidents were connected to the mask mandate.

The CDC didn't respond by press time to a request for additional comment.

Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
Related Topics