Is the mask mandate on planes ever going to end?

- THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER - Cassidy Morrison - APR 11, 2022 -

People hold signs that read “No Mask, No Way" and "Freedom!” during a protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other issues Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Ted S. Warren/AP

Extension of transportation mask mandate ‘absolutely on the table,’ Jha says

The Biden administration is prepared to extend the federal mask mandate further for transportation networks, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said.

The federal mandate, which applies to transportation hubs, including airports, airplanes, and public transportation, was scheduled to lift on April 18, having already been extended a month. The administration has signaled that it is willing to prolong the mandate despite pressure from Republicans and outside groups.

“This is a [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] decision, and I think it is absolutely on the table,” Jha said on the Today showon Monday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has been criticized for promulgating confusing and sometimes contradictory messaging from the agency concerning the best COVID-19 prevention practices, such as masking recommendations. For instance, when the CDC abruptly reversed its stance on masking last summer in the face of a new delta variant surge, announcing that people should mask up regardless of vaccination status, a group of Republican lawmakers joined forces to introduce a bill that would compel the Government Accountability Office to review the CDC's decision-making and messaging regarding its reversal on mask guidance.

The CDC has also frequently fallen behind states on masking, with a wide swath of Republican-led states ditching masking guidelines long ago. In February, blue states began rolling back their existing masking rules despite the Biden administration's more conservative guidance.

Walensky will “make her decision based on the framework that the CDC scientists create” in the coming days, Jha said.

The recent proliferation of the BA.2 subvariant, dubbed the “stealth” variant due to its wide range of mutations that make it difficult to detect in a standard PCR test, has not caused the same kind of public trepidation as the omicron variant did last year. A combination of wide vaccine coverage, population immunity conferred through continued exposure, and more lenient social distancing recommendations from the CDC have made people feel more secure in embracing a new normal.


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