Masks Coming Back For Vaccinated People, Airline Mask Requirement May Get Extended

The CDC is announcing today that fully vaccinated people should wear masks again in indoor public settings, because of spread of the Delta variant. People aren’t going to comply. However this change makes an extension of the federal transportation mask mandate more likely.

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now,

  • About the spread of the virus in the U.S. Cases are rising, but perhaps far more than reported, because centered around younger unvaccinated people symptoms may be milder leading to less testing (the same holds for many cases among vaccinated people, who also may just assume it’s not Covid because they’re vaccinated).

  • Because of higher viral loads – the Delta variant seems to infect rapidly, part of making it more transmissible and also potentially overwhelming the sterilizing effect of vaccination in some cases (so whereas before an asymptomatic case might be highly unlikely to spread the virus we no longer know this to be the case).

This Is Mostly About Source Control

If we are talking about masks for personal protection then of course it’s a mistake to lump them all together. Pieces of paper coving nose and mouth with a string generally ‘count’ for meeting mask mandates, but provide little protection.

However it seems like the real rationale for the CDC’s guidance is uncertainty about the extent to which vaccinated people might spread the virus. We know this was not happening often before, but really do not know if this has changed. This is in many ways a failure of genomic surveillance, tracking of breakthrough cases (with the CDC only paying attention when a vaccinated person is hospitalized), and total breakdown in contact tracing.

We’ll Almost Certainly Need Booster Shots

In addition it seems as though immunity from vaccines may wane, especially in older people. Lower antibody levels may lead to more breakthrough infections, even if cases are more mild (since it takes time for B- and T-cells to address an infection).

The need for booster shots is almost a certainty, requires planning, but the government appears to be dragging its feet on this – and it’s concerning that more mRNA doses haven’t been ordered than are already in the pipeline. Pressure on U.S.-based Moderna likely prevents this country from going to the back of the line but the lack of action could create shortages again.

People Aren’t Going To Follow CDC Guidance

Mask mandates have been lifted in most places and people have stopped wearing them, except where they’re required by employers or by government.

And while there are breakthrough infections, severe cases and hospitalizations are relatively rare. Even with waning antibodies there’s just not evidence that the Delta variant represents an outsized risk to most vaccinated people (especially those who aren’t elderly or with significant comorbidities). And as a result many vaccinated people just aren’t going to wear masks anymore. Unvaccinated people weren’t likely wearing masks to begin with.

Since CDC guidance is just guidance, since so many have tired of restrictions, and since the CDC has done so much damage to its credibility throughout the pandemic it seems unlikely their advice will be heeded by a majority of people.

What Does This Mean For Masks On Planes?

The transportation mask mandate is currently set to expire September 13. There will be intense lobbying on this issue. Southwest’s CEO wants to see the mask mandate expire. So does United’s. American’s CEO has said he expects the mandate to sunset. However some unions may push for an extension of the requirement.

If the current wave of infection peaks in August, case levels may not be so low as to make it difficult to extend. “Just once more to get us through this wave” becomes a possibility, especially if (as seems likely) the CDC hasn’t again reversed itself on mask guidance.

Put another way, the recommendation that vaccinated people wear masks indoors again makes an extension of the federal masking requirement for transportation more likely.

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. There are more than enough N95 masks for anyone who wants them. If you are vaccinated and wear and N95 mask while traveling, your risk is microscopic. As such, there is no case for mandating masks for your fellow travelers. Let people make their own decisions.

  2. People are done with this nonsense. I did the right thing for 16 months. Got vaccinated. That was all my choice, and I’m not worried about other people at this point. Let the non vaccinated get COVID and die if necessary. If you are immunocompromised, terrified of the virus, or just love to virtue signal, please wear an N95 like @Doug says for some real protection from the unvaccinated.

    This is an endemic disease and we need to get on with life as normal and live with it. I’m done listening to people who have been wrong almost all of the time.

  3. I won’t wear a mask unless I’m around the elderly/infirmed or children under the age of 12. At this point, if you choose to go to a bar and are unvaccinated, that’s on you.

    Also: Give kids the vaccine already. In the history of vaccines there has never been a vaccine that has not been approved for children if it was already given the green light for adults.

  4. If Biden and his CDC continue this nonsense and their perpetual scaremongering, I bet that the Democrat Party will be trounced in the mid-term elections.

  5. How many booster shots will we need to get? One per year for every variant plus vaccines for each new variant that finds a way around vaccines?

    Viruses mutate randomly. There is no way to predict how it will mutate. We know that it will learn to evade vaccines.

    Best case scenario now is mitigating death rates. Science says Covid is endemic now and will never go away. At this point, we are chasing our tails like a dog trying to fight this.

    The only way to get to zero covid is to have a six month strict lockdown like Australia then permanently close the borders to everyone. No international travel ever again. Thats the only way to get to zero covid.

  6. @Wesley

    So far the vaccines have an excellent track record of preventing severe illness and death. The only reason there’s even a conversation about masks is because of the high number of covidiots in this country who are so contrarian they’d rather die with a tube down their throat than admit that they’re wrong.

    Boosters may be needed for people who are immunocompromised/elderly where immune response may be muted or wane faster than in other healthy individuals.

  7. This is a simple knee jerk reaction of the government bodies and nothing else. The cases are rising and our leaders feel that they have to do something so they will not be blamed later. The only thing they can do is to implement mask mandate or recommendation. One cannot institute a lock down because UK does not have one. 49.7% of US is fully vaccinated. It is 57.8% in Israel with similar vaccine. But cases are rising in Israel as well. The only good news about Delta variant is that will burn through quickly.
    Booster shot is a tricky business because it could overload the immune system of some people.

  8. Just let the 2 digit IQs get it and the world is a better place once they are gone. The world population has exceeded the world’s resources.

  9. “tracking of breakthrough cases (with the CDC only paying attention when a vaccinated person is hospitalized), and total breakdown in contact tracing.”

    Totally untrue! Gary, you need to find better sources! My proof is Provincetown, Mass. All eyes are on that breakout superspreader event. All agencies are tracking every positive case, there and thru out the US. The positive cases are symptomatic and most (69%) are fully vaccinated. Out of the 430 confirmed cases, 153 are residents of Provincetown. Residents of P-town are nearly all vaccinated. What this means is the Delta variant is very easily transmitted with casual contact.

    Since less than half the US population is vaccinated, masks on aircraft have to been continued! When healthcare companies mandate vaccination or no coverage for your Covid hospitalization, things will change.

  10. @paul, With a mentality of Hilter, You have no business whatsoever virtue signaling anyone. Anyone who wishes death upon another human being loses all talking points.

  11. It’s about Democrats wanting to control your life. Two middle digit salute to them

  12. Is anyone really surprised that the US government spent hundreds of billions on a vaccine that doesn’t work?

  13. @ Don — Doesn’t’ work? Try turning the channel from Fox News. 99.5% of COVID deaths are among the unvaccinated. Seems to be working incredibly well.

  14. “We’re doing something.” – Government

    Almost all of the hospitalizations currently are *dun dun dun* un-vaccinated.

  15. @Don – the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines is incredible. Vaccinated individuals are far far less likely to even get minor symptoms of any kind, and severe disease and hospitalization happens only incredibly rarely. Fortunately vaccination rates are higher among older populations who were most vulnerable to the virus.

    Now, the efficacy of Sinovac’s Coronavac on the other hand is far less significant!

  16. The more hysteria that is created about covid, the longer it will be before business travel returns and yet all of the big 4 US airlines pushed mask mandates to try to build travel confidence.
    Once you give power to the government, you don’t ever get to take it back.

  17. @Wesley – we don’t need boosters for each variant, and each tailored shot doesn’t need a separate booster. Moderna for instance is working on a pan-coronavirus shot and a covid-19 + flu single shot.

  18. @John – 65 million of those are lower pediatric doses, and the others are just options – and as you recognize, no moderna

  19. As @Adam L said “So far the vaccines have an excellent track record of preventing severe illness and death. “…. PREVENTING severe illness and death…

    More and more vaccinated people are getting covid. However, they aren’t getting very sick at all. Infact, most have little to no symptoms… However, they are highly contagious.

    Having no symptoms and being highly contagious is bad for everyone around that person… vaccinated or not.

  20. We must *not* become overly paranoid about the India/Delta variant! Why is this? What the government health agencies got *all wrong,* since the beginning of this pandemic, was their chase of #case infections rather than the *only* meaningful measures of #critical hospitalizations and #deaths! Chasing the #case infections is meaningless, by definition, since the more you test, the more positives you will find; in fact, the CDC last week just *revoked* its EUA to use RT PCR testing as the gold reference method to detect SARS-CoV-2 infections, because that test could *not* differentiate between common Influenza viruses vs. SARS-CoV-2. Ever wondered what happened to all of those “normally occurring” cases of Influenza last year? They most likely all got mislabeled as SARS-CoV-2 infections because of RT PCR tests yielding ambiguously “positive” results.

    Even though the India/Delta variant is more infectious, the #critical hospitalizations and #deaths are still within manageable levels, so there is *no need* to panic! All that is required, is to protect those who are vulnerable (eg, immune-compromised old folks and/or those with significant co-morbidities) and carry on, because something like 99.9% of those who get infected will recover on their own — just properly treat those rare cases that require advanced care!

    Still not convinced? Think about this scientifically — viruses that are *not* weaponized strive to survive and thrive through infecting their hosts. Even though viruses are notorious for mutating into variants, they still do *not* want to kill off their hosts and, thereby, kill themselves off as well. So it is traditional (and mandatory) that each mutation becomes no more lethal than its prior generation. This is, indeed, the case with the India/Delta variant, as well — more infectious, with greater #case infections, but *not* more lethal, as demonstrated in India, UK, and other prevalent hot spots!

    As for blanket vaccinations of those <18 years of age, there are studies that show such blanket actions actually yield *more harm* to those youths than benefits! Some of the world's most renowned infectious diseases doctors and epidemiologists at world renowned medical institutions (eg, Harvard Med, Yale Med, Stanford Med, etc) have, in fact, come out and advised *against* vaccinating anyone <30 years of age, due to the extremely low demonstrated #deaths among that age group vs. the prevalence of potentially serious side-effects that have been experienced (eg, myocarditis, pericarditis, blood clots), especially among the young (<18 years of age) — just consult the federal government's VAERS database! And yet they're now trying to get approval to vaccinate kids from 2 years of age to 11+ years of age? Does this sound just a bit desperate and *insane*?

    There's an old saying — "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it" on the issue of vaccinating the young!

    We need to follow issued government mandates, even when not scientifically based, but we should still understand what *Real* Science tells us through *Real* Facts and *Real* Data!

  21. WARNING! Mask mandates lead to lockdowns. Billions in government airline bailout money incoming! (And lots of other corporations).
    If I was gonna get billions more dollars, I’d be pushing for a lockdown too. You think people or corporations actually want to work for money anymore?

  22. COVID and it’s variants are never going away. They will be with us every year like the seasonal flu. The COVID vaccines are still declared for “emergency use” by the CDC and as such are considered experimental until the FDA approves them. The COVID vaccines are not 100% risk free, people have died taking them. I’m all for vaccines but even if 100% of the world was vaccinated COVID would still be with us.

    It’s concerning and dangerous when governments start mandating individuals healthcare. People should be more concerned with that than those not getting the COVID vaccine.

  23. BlackHill and Wesley I agree that this isn’t going away, especially since other mammals can get the virus. Eventually these rules will become swamped by the reality that Covid is staying. However, not getting vaccinated now increases the chances of more dangerous mutations spreading. Yes, people have died from taking, but a hell of a lot more have died from not taking them–in other words, nothing is risk free. That unfortunately is something governments rarely admit. It’s also too bad that many people don’t get it that scientists aren’t infallible; they are working on a moving target where the results change with more data. That’s better than being dogmatic and eventually something close to what is really going on emerges from their work. We’ll just have to live with this virus like we do with many others, but the politicians don’t want to hear that from the epidemiologists.

  24. The trouble with letting people make their own decisions is that some people make really bad choices.

    The mask rule is kind of weak because flimsy masks are allowed. Flimsy masks are of very small benefit.

  25. @Gary

    Re: Childhood vaccination

    There are only two outcomes of the trial: Either the vaccines will be given to children under 12 or they won’t. If it’s the latter, then it’s back to the drawing board. Given the public health benefits of avoiding transmission and mutation in a population of nearly 50 million people, this should be a no-brainer. For all those who say “kids don’t get ill so we don’t have to worry about it”, we are just scratching the iceberg on the long-term effects of COVID. I’d rather vaccinate my kids than find out that their “mild COVID” resulted in long-term neurological effects.

  26. Been in Italy since july 14th I have never seen so many people wearing kn95 masks! I haven’t seen many in the usa with them on as I see in milan turin genoa florence. How so many get access to these before people in the usa could! I been tested every 3 days and people have no problem with wearing their mask her as the usa.

  27. Happy to let Delta have its way w/the anti-vaxxing Trumptards…serves them right

  28. Enjoy coping with the vaccines. We all know the efficacy rates when dealing with Delta are falling like flies. The vaccine won’t save you. This strategy was wrong from the get go.

    What we needed is a national conversation on health care, helping people with their pre-existing conditions, making them less vulnerable from the virus in the first place. Improving their lives, subsidizing better diets, exercise, top bottom holistic care. Many of the people that passed (RIP) had pre-existing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.

    Mandatory hygiene, clean places of work, thorough enforcement of health codes, and yes exposing people to the virus for herd immunity would have been much beneficial. Like influenza, the common cold, this virus was going to mutate. Locking people up, inventing copes like masks, emergency approved only vaccines was the wrong move.

    I lived through SARS 1.0 in Toronto, I know what I am talking about. And I dread the government overreach in limiting our freedoms. Alcoholism, spousal abuse, depression, suicide, drug abuse, none of this worth it. People missing their parents, grandparents, graduations, etc. not worth it.

  29. At Darth Abu: pay the 80% of people in this country that are exploited by capitalism and they will be able to afford to eat better. That is, the 80% that are left over after your herd immunity policy killed 30 million people…..

  30. Gotta love the people who say they know covid isn’t dangerous for kids in the short term but “we don’t know about the long term effects”.
    Pretty sure that IS EXACTLY the concern about giving kids a rushed vaccine with no long term data and waived liability for the manufacturers. But let’s experiment on this generation of kids just so we can prevent them from spreading the virus to save some old people from dying.

  31. Time to make flying like cruises from Florida. Your option to show a Vaccination card and not wear a mask. Don’t want to show it or not get a shot? Wear a mask while flying. The Vaccination works so why punish those who took it?

  32. Some of you people are amazing!!! The vaccines will save the world………give me a break. Maybe you people should start using your brains for once instead of letting the MSM do your thinking for you. To say the vaccines “lessen” the symptoms is such horse manure. You have no idea if it helps, or if your immune system would beat it all by itself. We are finding out/knew that hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin work just fine at suppressing the virus, but there is no money to be made using those cheap drugs. The pharmaceuticals are the biggest political contributors in Washington. I guess you people forgot when the people in the current administration said they don’t trust the vaccine developed under the Trump administration. Funny how the song ahs changed.

    The average survivability of COVID is 95+ percent (closer to 99%). Maybe a lot of these obese Americans have compromised immune systems that is contributing to health issues. Wake up people, the media and government are trying to control you.

  33. There is absolutely no evidence that booster shots will be needed. The 2nd shot of mRNA vaccines produce long-lived plasma cells that could last a lifetime.

    When I received the yellow fever vaccine I was told I would need a booster shot in 10 years. It has since been shown that one shot is good for a lifetime.

    Other than Gary, the only people that say we need covid booster shots are the executives at Pfizer.

  34. The government wants to keep people living in fear. People who are scared can be controlled and manipulated much easier. If they keep the hysteria going they can pull more power into the government because they have enough people believing they need big government to protect them.

  35. @Gene

    95% of unvaccinated people under 70 who got Covid had no or mild symptoms so the vaccines have basically done very little for most people except those who are genetically predisposed to complications from it. Keep in mind that not everyone lives to 100 and most of the people who die from Covid would have died from something else. We need to be honest that all the media reports of hospitals and complications is hype and propaganda. If the world never shut down in March 2020, we wouldn’t be much different than now in terms of deaths and effects.


    That’s fair. Freedom means people choosing how to live their lives as they see fit. If they want to smoke, eat red meat, drink alcohol, get tattoos, not wear a seat belt, do drugs, play cards with friends for money, get a lot of sun, get fat, eat sweets, or not get a vaccine, it should be their choice.

    You were probably being facetious but there is one group who has the lowest IQ in the world. We all know what this group is.


    It’s rational to feel this way. The feeling is mutual with people like Paul. I can’t lie and say I wouldn’t prefer the global population to be 10% of what it is given the extreme overpopulation of some groups who tax our resources (this is the actual threat to the environment and not battery park city built on reclaimed land or Venice flooding) and make our neighborhoods full of commotion, violence, and low culture. When some groups cause 90% our problems, it’s not logical to want these people around.

  36. @Ed Totally agree. Those hundreds of thousands of Indians died of mass hysteria, not the Delta Variant.

  37. @Kraut I didn’t delete your comment. I don’t delete comments for stupidity. The system put it into the moderation queue for manual approval, so it had to wait until I got up in the morning.

  38. Hey Jackson you’re right. 90% of people do cause all our
    problems-they are called maga supporters.

  39. So multi-entity scientific studies have confirmed that aircraft ventilation systems remove 99.97% of airborne contaminates. So we are wearing masks for 3/100ths of 1%??? That’s beyond insanity!

  40. @Jackson Waterson
    Jack, do you really think that anyone on here is going to listen to a racist moron like yourself? Trying to hide your racism in hidden terms isn’t helping you. Yeah, the population would be better if you disappeared! You’re too much of a coward to come out and say I’m a white racist pig who hates everyone else that is not white. Everything that displeases you is hype and propaganda. Take a look in the mirror Jack!

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