British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have stopped requiring masks on planes – except when they fly to the United States, because the U.S. government still mandates it. The federal transportation mask mandate was extended through April 18 for no good reason, other than political fear from the Biden administration (that some new variant would come along) and political opportunism (they weren’t yet ready to declare victory and removing the ban will be useful as part of that).
The Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate has now voted 57-40 to overturn the transportation mask mandate. Here’s what to expect,
- The House of Representatives won’t take up the matter. They don’t want to embarrass the President.
- However it makes it harder for the administration to extend the mandate again.
The mandate was almost certain to expire April 18, no more extensions. But with mask rules being lifted elsewhere, and with the President’s own party going along with a Republican-led effort in the Senate to overturn the mask mandate, pressure is mounting to see it end.
So Dr. Fauci’s hope to see masking on planes forever and push from some Biden insiders to make it a permanent rule notwithstanding, we’re going to see the end of the transportation mask mandate soon enough.
That still allows passengers to wear masks, of course. I long wanted to wear one during flu season but in the U.S. it seemed too socially unacceptable. That’s no longer the case. I don’t like getting sick because there’s rarely a good time to slow down.
And I was a strong advocate for masks on planes, and for better masks, in 2020. That was before we had vaccines that are highly effective against the severe outcomes we worry about, treatments that keep people out of the hospital and can keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed, and a dominant strain that’s less virulent.
Of course if circumstances change, if we see (1) a variant that escapes vaccines and prior infection, (2) where treatments are less effective, and (3) masks are actually protective against it then requiring masks could make sense again – though likely in restaurants and bars before planes, and only where it makes sense as par of a broader suppression strategy when health care capacity is at risk
The Senate bill was introduced by Rand Paul (R-KY) and received support from Democrats Michael Bennet (CO), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Jon Tester (MTT), Mark Kelly (AZ), Joe Manchin (WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Jacky Rosen (NV) and Maggie Hassan (NG). Republican Mitt Romney (UT) voted against.