Is The Air Travel Mask Mandate About To Get Extended Again?

Dr. Fauci wanted masks on planes forever. Since last January I’ve said the mask mandate would end before the November 2022 midterms, because control of both the House and Senate hang in the balance. Amidst high inflation and Russian’s invasion of Ukraine driving up food and energy prices, the Administration needs to declare victory over Covid-19.

The current transportation mask mandate runs through April 18. Airlines have been expecting the mandate to expire. Their lobbying group . American has planned for the return of alcohol sales in coach April 18, to coincide with the lifting of the mask requirement.

A month ago I wrote, though, that one thing could throw a monkey wrench in this plan: an expected uptick in cases by the B.A.2 variant. Europe was already seeing case growth, although experience there suggests it tops out at much lower levels than the recent wave. If cases are growing right as the Administration has to decide whether to lift the mandate, that makes it harder for them to do so.

And cases are just starting to grow, mostly confined to the Northeast. Even Eric Topol isn’t especially concerned.

We’re a week away from the expiration of the transportation mask mandate, and masks are generally required only on planes, trains, buses and automobiles (and in certain backward parts of the country, preschools).

We are, however, no longer in a place where public mandates are needed. Despite the tick up in cases, reported positives remain low.

Most importantly, hospitalizations and ICU admittances are at their lowest level since the start of the pandemic, far lower than in the summer of 2021.

And we’re simply better able to address the current virus than at any point in the pandemic.

  • Vaccines and boosters are available, and hold up against bad outcomes from Covid-19

  • B.A.2, like B.A.1, presents as less severe

  • And it spreads more quickly, 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.

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, 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. @ DEE — Have you ever read a newspaper? Check out the NY Times investigation of Donald Trump’s taxes, and then tell me he isn’t a lifelong crook. I know it is much easier to sit back and listen to liars like Tucker Carlson spew their lies to you, but try using that God-given brain and do your own research. Whatever crimes the Bidens have allegedly committed have zero to do with Trump’s stealing and lying. Try separating the two things.

  2. In the last 2 years I have flown, quite a bit, wearing mask. I usually catch a cold every other trip. I have not had a cold during the pandemic. So I will continue to wear a mask because it works for me!

  3. I think it’s FANTASTIC NEWS they extended it, i was still a little on the fence if the Dem’s would hold on to the house or senate, they have now put the final nail in their coffin so I’ll live with it for another two weeks knowing those NUT CASE Dem’s have now sealed their fate!! BYE BYE BIDEN!!! Your last two years you might as well go sit on a beach somewhere because you will NEVER get a single thing passed, SO LONG, it’s time for a nursing home for you anyway, maybe they can help you with your shuffling while you walk and teach you how to pick up your feet when you walk you stupid old man!

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