Within minutes of having learned that a Trump-appointed judge in Florida had issued a ruling yesterday striking down the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s federal regulation requiring face coverings on public transport, airlines and many other transportation providers throughout the country rushed to announce that masks were no longer required on board — including in some cases through irresponsible mid-flight announcements made by jubilant pilots.
Posting again because Twitter deleted (?)
The end of the #maskmandate has this plane singing
🎶 Throw away your masks 🎶 pic.twitter.com/BvvCNLE6Ts
— Guy P. Football (@Guy_P_Football) April 19, 2022
The sudden policy shift, made with absolutely no regard for the potential adverse impacts on immunocompromised passengers, children, or those not wishing to travel in mask optional environments, is yet another development that will likely help prolong the pandemic — with deadly and ominous consequences.
“Let’s be really clear about what is happening at this stage in the pandemic: We are giving up on public health and embracing the privatization of health in ways that serve the able and young and write off anyone vulnerable,” noted Meghan O’Rourke, author of The Invisible Kingdom: Reimaging Chronic Illness.
Transit providers, with the notable exception of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, wasted little time in following the airlines’ “lead.” A news release sent this morning that bore the logos of every major transit agency in Puget Sound declared that mask requirements would no longer be enforced.
In accordance with yesterday’s statement from the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA), agencies providing transit to riders throughout the Puget Sound region announced that face coverings will no longer be required on transit, at transit facilities or in transit hubs effective today.
Participating in this announcement are the following agencies:
- Community Transit
- Everett Transit
- King County Metro
- Kitsap Transit
- Pierce Transit
- Seattle Department of Transportation (Seattle Streetcar)
- Seattle Center Monorail
- Sound Transit
TSA’s initial face mask requirement went into effect on February 1, 2021. Previous to the TSA requirement, Washington state and local health authorities had issued mandates for face coverings in public spaces.
While masks are no longer required on transit, riders are welcome to continue wearing face coverings if they wish. Please understand it will take time to update all of the announcements, signs, and other communications related to the federal mask mandate.
The glib we’re done with COVID attitude underpinning these and other recent policy changes is ironically having the effect of ensuring that we will not be “done with COVID” anytime this year, or in the indefinite future, for that matter. The demise of masking requirements will also set the stage for an uptick in the transmission of other airborne viruses, including the flu and various cold viruses.
Airlines that dropped mask requirements are now suffering staff shortages due to COVID-19
By Megan Cerullo
April 11, 2022 | 5:15 PM | MoneyWatch
Overseas airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights as they grapple with coronavirus-related staffing shortages weeks after they ditched rules requiring passengers and staff to mask up in the air.
Epidemiologist and health economist Eric Feigl-Ding noted on Twitter two weeks ago that what happened in Europe was entirely predictable:
Government of the United Kingdom drops restrictions, airlines like easyJet drops masks… and less than 2 weeks later… huge spike in pilots and flight attendants out sick with COVID-19 unable to work, and 120 flights cancelled! Airline CEOs asked for this.
The same thing is now likely to happen here in the United States.
“Wearing a mask when exposed to a carrier with no mask: upper bound risk of infection is 30%,” tweeted health justice advocate Michael Granovetter, citing a study in PNAS. “When everyone is masked: upper bound risk of infection is 0.4%. Public health breaks down when one makes it about personal choice.”
Airline CEOs and others now parroting the party line of the we want to go back to normal crowd seem rather desperate to move on from the pandemic.
But a return to the past is not possible. There is no going back. The only direction we can go is onward. In their eagerness to declare the global public health emergency known as the COVID-19 pandemic over, they are ensuring that illness and death will continue… and alienating even more people in the process.
“Delta, your flight attendants greeting us ‘would you like champagne? Let’s celebrate no more masks’ is not what I paid for,” tweeted Ify Ike. “It’s not only childish but also creates an uncomfortable, and potentially hostile environment for those of us still masked. COVID is also not seasonal.”
Delta is already backtracking.
The airline put out a statement that read, in part: “We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus.” After getting roasted online for absurdly calling COVID-19 an “ordinary seasonal virus,” Delta’s communications team changed the statement to read: “We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus.”
Staff shortages, cancellations, and lots of upset travelers are likely going to be a frequent occurrence this summer as airlines struggle to manage COVID-19, having given up on the most effective tools for preventing the virus’ spread.