Breaking: CDC Extending Travel Mask Mandate

The federal Transportation Mask Mandate – which covers air, rail, and bus travel – was set to expire March 18th and extended to April 18th. Most people in the airline industry expected it to lapse. I suggested earlier this week that expiring it now would be tough for the Biden administration.

The CDC will extend the mask mandate by two weeks. The goal is to “monitor for any observable increase in severe virus outcomes as cases rise in parts of the country..out of abundance of caution.”

While CDC mask guidance suggests nearly the entire country doesn’t need to wear masks indoors, the only real remaining mask mandates are flying (and other transportation) and in some backward jurisdictions for 2-4 year olds in preschools.

A month ago I wrote that the one thing that could throw a monkey wrench in this plan was an expected uptick in cases by the B.A.2 variant. And that started happening days ago.

Still, recent B.A.1 infection is protective against B.A.2 and vaccination continues to protect against bad outcomes from B.A.2. Hospitalizations and ICU admittances are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic.

Even Eric Topol isn’t especially concerned.

We are no longer in a place where public mandates are needed. And doing it just on planes gets us virtually nothing in any case. We’re simply better able to address the current virus than at any point in the pandemic.

  • There’s tremendous background protection from vaccines, boosters, and prior infection.

  • B.A.2 spreads so quickly that masks that meet the regulatory requirement (like cloth masks) probably don’t do much anyway. Masking was important in 2020 both to delay infection (until we had vaccines and treatments) and delay hospitalizations (to preserve capacity) – not so much right now

  • Treatments are available from Paxlovid to Fluvoxamine to Peginterferon Lambda (TOGETHER 3 TRIAL)

Now is the time to wear a good mask properly if you’re concerned – if you’re immunocompromised, elderly, or potentially if you have relevant comorbidities. It’s not the time to impose broad public mandates. We have tools we didn’t have earlier in the pandemic, and enough background immunity from the Omicron wave that we aren’t likely to put pressure on hospitals now.

It is possible of course that we could see a new variant of consequence that is fast-spreading (like Omicron), more virulent (like Delta), and that escapes prior immunity. That would be a huge concern and reason to re-address public health policy from good-quality masks, to variant-specific and pan-coronavirus vaccines, to ramped up treatments.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The only adjustment that needs to be made is to rid the White House of the clown show that’s been taking place since Jan 2020.

    What are you, stoopid? You must be the only one who did not notice that we did get rid of the clown show that ran daily in the WH between Jan 2020 and Jan 2021. No more talks of zapping the virus with laser light or drinking bleach to cure CV-19. That was funny, I must grant you that.

    G’day.

  2. That you can call low inflation, cheap gas, a secure border, and quiet international relations a clown show is laughable, aside from being a denial of reality. Our obviously dementia afflicted President has lost so much international respect that he is the object of foreign SNL skits.

  3. Our obviously dementia afflicted President has lost so much international respect

    Please do not laugh too loud because you are the butt of the joke and do not even know it.

    With such an ignorant claim, considering how quickly and effectively he’s rallied and united the world to oppose Putin, for whom your guy was nothing but a lap dog, I can assure you that it is not our current president who is demented. Just take a look in the mirror. See that guy? He’s the one who is demented…

    G’day.

  4. Our obviously dementia afflicted President has lost so much international respect

    Please do not laugh too loud because you are the joke and do not even know it.

    With such an ignorant claim, considering how quickly and effectively he’s rallied and united the world to oppose Putin, for whom your guy was nothing but a lap dog, I can assure you that it is not our current president who is demented. Just take a look in the mirror. See that guy? He’s the one who is demented…

    G’day.

  5. @DCA the ‘offical explanation’ cannot be true because there is no public health benefit to masking on planes and nowhere else.

  6. @Gary Leff – You are wrong about that too. You are not a scientist; I am. Do a literature search, read the papers and call me in the morning.

    G’day.

  7. @DCS — “You are not a scientist; I am.”

    Since you overtly portray yourself to be politically biased, while claiming to be a “scientist,” do you understand that your claim of credentials can be rendered *suspect* with respect to *true science* (how does anyone trust that your “scientific” views are *not* tainted with your politics), and your other claims made on this blog thread can thereby degenerate into being treated as your own wishful fantasies, rather than being factual? To be clear — mixing in your anti-Trump biases does *not* help your purported “scientific” claims!

    And with your replies, please attribute to whom you are replying … just posting some random views by themselves (even when you include cherry-picked fragments) is kind of ambiguous to readers who might want to follow your reply threads, yet still desire to see the original contents from those to whom you are replying!

  8. DCS – c’mon. Just stop typing. You’re embarrassing yourself – just go upstairs and have a Hot Pocket.

  9. EXACTLY what did President Trump DO (not what he said, but what he actually DID). Not one of you can say what he actually DID. He SAID things that I did not like. But his ACTIONS were correct.

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