The CDC has issued a ‘strong’ recommendation for mask wearing on planes, rideshares and across public transportation. Yes, in October. And there are three reasons this will make no difference whatsoever for air travel.
- Airlines are all already doing this (so are Uber and Lyft). The guidelines do nothing to change how travel occurs in the U.S. or on U.S. airlines.
- The recommendation comes extremely late. I suppose ‘better late than never’ applies. Of course the CDC advised against mask wearing during the spring. The CDC hasn’t accorded itself well here.
- The CDC guidelines are weaker than what airlines are currently enforcing. They provide for medical exemptions to mask wearing. United, American, and Southwest do not allow such exemptions. Delta requires a medical consultation at the airport prior to offering one.
The CDC botched testing at the beginning of the pandemic (and the FDA wouldn’t allow non-CDC tests to be used). They botched passenger screening, enforcing the ban on travel from China before the virus spread on the West Coast, and failed to share passenger data with local health authorities. They argued against mask wearing (which led to American Airlines disciplining flight attendants who insisted on wearing them).
For all of the complaints about meddling with the CDC scientists by the administration, the agency itself has accorded itself poorly and senior leadership has placated the administration. Where are the high level resignations? Where’s the taking of responsibility?