The One Thing That Could Extend The Air Travel Mask Mandate Past April 18

The federal transportation mask mandate should have been lifted, or allowed to expire March 18. However it was extended – for just one month. And the broad expectation is that it will end in mid-April, as part of the administration declaring victory on Covid-19. There’s a strong political reason to do so before the mid-term elections. And it makes good sense, too.

  • Vaccines and boosters are available, and hold up against bad outcomes from Covid-19
  • The current dominant variant of the virus is generally less severe
  • And spreads more quickly, masks that meet the regulatory requirement (like cloth masks) probably don’t do much anyway. Masking was important in 2020, not so much right now
  • Plus treatments are available from Paxlovid to Fluvoxamine to Peginterferon Lambda (TOGETHER 3 TRIAL)

There’s just one thing that could lead the air travel mask mandate to be extended – a new wave of Covid infections: the U.S. could be behind Europe, much of which is seeing an increase in cases again.

B.A.2 is more infectious than the original strain of Omicron, perhaps 25% more. It is on its way towards dominance in the U.S. but doesn’t appear more serious. The U.S. has two likely paths,

  • The Omicron wave was sufficiently infectious here that we don’t see another surge, just a slowdown in decline
  • Another surge occurs but not likely at levels experienced during Omicron. Germany is peaking at its mid-February highs, but had really only just begun to decline.

Since immunity from prior infection and vaccination seem to be as effective against B.A.2 as B.A.1. and most Americans have substantial protection at this point it doesn’t seem likely that we see another surge from current variants, but the possibility of one is the reason the only real remaining pandemic restrictions in the U.S. would continue to last.

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… which still seem likely to be effective.

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. More theater to appease suburban white women.

    A cloth mask is theater, an N95 is vastly superior and even those say they don’t stop the spread of a virus right in the packaging.

  2. It’s time. The economic disruption must end.

    Everyone should know the numbers and statistics. Everyone has had their chance to get vaccinated.

    If someone wants to continue to wear a mask, do it. If someone who has chosen not to get vaccinated dies, there are no tears and no regrets.

    I understand and respect that there are individuals with medical vulnerabilities. But, the burden of protection has always been in their court.

  3. Please stop being so… one-dimensional !

    COVID cases have not receded because of a single measure, like masking, which everyone is obsessing with. Cases have receded thanks to the increased protection provided by a combination of measures (masking, testing, vaccines, “social distancing”). Therefore, the measures must be lifted progressively while taking stock along the way to avoid lifting some measures too soon.

    And please stop spreading the canard that masking is no longer needed or effective. Even a poor mask, in combination with other measures, can boost protection. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that; just simple common sense, which is practically nonexistent among MAGA adherents…

  4. The problem w/ every covid mitigation strategy that has been foisted on Americans by unelected bureaucrats for the past 2 years, including for masking.

    Very few have been honest w/ data about current status or where the country or localities need to go in order to get rid of each mitigation strategy while we have seen repeated goal moving as well as “rules for thee but not for me” mentality – and THAT is why most Americans are through w/ covid whether they should be or not.

  5. @Tim Dunn — You are confused. Falsifying data was a feature rather than a bug in the former guy’s administration. Real pros and adults are now in charge of things and giving it straight to the people. No zapping COVID with laser or curing it with hydrochloroquine.

  6. DCS 3 posts above is wrong. I see most Democratic Party supporters not wearing N95 masks. They are not acting smartly.

  7. Yes, real adults are in charge. Like one Joe Biden, who recently mused about the apparently common occurrence of being blackmailed with nude pictures.

    The current leadership is a bunch of gutless, robotic mediocrities. Headed by an embarrassing dotard.

  8. The Biden Regime with continue with the Wuhan Virus Terrorist Mandate forever if he thought he could get away with it

  9. “the broad expectation is” LOL. Really?
    Pretty easy then to string lots of people people along. Do you honestly believe that April 19 will be burn-your-mask day? Didn’t BA just “reverse course” after one day?
    They’ve been looking for an excuse to keep the COVID party going as long as possible. Scared people predictably vote for those promising protection. A bonus is vilifying freedom of any sort, and let’s not forget about the oldie-but-goodie “It’s for the children.”
    Masks on planes –> PERMANENT.
    COVID has yuge political value. They’re not letting go of that club without a fight. They need a good scare to get everyone on board with the WHO’s plan to introduce a vaccine passport — either a new strain of COVID or the scary recycled ‘bird flu’ followed by a big effort by our monolithic lapdog press and ta da!!!! You have fresh new restrictions to “keep everyone safe”. You must all download this app, run it all the time, and thus obtain permission to travel outside of your own country (for now – eventually you’ll need permission to go anywhere).
    The totalitarianism threat is Trump!! Yup… keep listening to that. Don’t ask yourself dispassionately which party is for restrictions and which party is for lifting restrictions. Just listen: TRUMP! RUSSIA! TRUMP! RUSSIA!! Be a good NPC.

  10. Now have all bases covered, so whatever happens you’ll have an article to link to about how you predicted it.

  11. And that laptop: RUSSIAN disinformation!!!

    Oh… well, didn’t you just slurp that one up when you were supposed to…

  12. The lies and the fraud continue to premeate society. It’s apparent they lied from the beginning and their biggest challenge now is how to walk back their deceit. It’s amazing to see the number of people who still haven’t figured it out.

  13. DCS, I’m a pro-mask / pro-vax guy. I had a family member die from COVID (pre-vaccine). I also have friends who have lost their business and most of their net worth. People have lost jobs. Families have endured tremendous financial hardship.

    It’s not about saving lives. It’s about saving lives at what cost to society? At a point, we have to say that the cost to society is too great to protect a group of people who have chosen not to protect themselves. Let them get sick. Let them die. Let them reimburse the health care system for their treatment. But, our society can no longer endure the consequences.

  14. As a fully vaccinated American I find this totally frustrating. The current order was a panic reaction when cases were soaring. If it had any value then, it certainly does not now. People can protect themselves if they choose. Time to let go. already.

  15. Either you believe in the cooties or you don’t. If you do, the you should stay home until the plandemic is completely 100% over or you’re a hypocrite and don’t care about everyone else unless it’s on your terms. If you don’t believe in cooties, then live your life and enjoy it and accept the consequences. Those are literally the only two options. Anyone who thinks differently is a liar amd piece of crap of a human being…. so choose one of those options and be done.

  16. @Joe Reno — I do not believe that a forum of travel addicts who were talking about the high “cost to society” even as millions were dying is qualified to do an analysis of “cost to society” or cost/benefit ratio of the pandemic that can be basis for policies on when to relax measures that have unquestionably brought the world to the end of tunnel. It must be about saving lives until that has been achieved to an “acceptable” level based on knowledgeable cost/benefit ratio. There are experts doing such analyses in real-time…

    Your impatience or too much MAGA kool-aid cannot dictate policies on when to relax measures designed to limit the pandemic’s toll.

    G’day.

  17. The lies and the fraud continue to premeate[sic] society. It’s apparent they lied from the beginning and their biggest challenge now is how to walk back their deceit. It’s amazing to see the number of people who still haven’t figured it out.

    — James N

    To anyone tempted to make a comment like the one quoted, know this: all it does is reveal your stupidity or MAGA affiliation, which are often one at the same.

    A case in point is a comment like “It’s apparent they lied from the beginning and their biggest challenge now is how to walk back their deceit.

    Who lied and whose deceit ???!!!

    Remember that when the pandemic started, we had a US “president” who thought it was all a liberal hoax designed to affect his reelection chances — stupid paranoia that was turned by his entire administration into deception campaign to minimize the perceive danger of the pandemic. Consequently, lying about the pandemic and falsifying or withholding data were a feature rather than a bug in the former guy’s administration. However, that did him no good. He still lost the election fair and square, anyway, and was tossed out of office even after attempting an unprecedented coup by inciting an attack against the US Capitol, the seat and world’s symbol of US democracy.

    Then a new administration, led by a decent and knowledgeable president, took over. Since then, real pros and adults have been in charge and giving it straight to the people. No zapping COVID with laser or curing it with hydroxychloroquine. Therefore, the notion that “It’s apparent they lied from the beginning and their biggest challenge now is how to walk back their deceit.” is pure bunk if only because two political parties with diametrically opposite views have run the country during the pandemic and it is MAGA-stupid to believe that they would cooperate in perpetuating so-called lies.

    If the preceding makes no sense to you, then you are a card-carrying MAGA adherent, i.e., beyond redemption.

    G’day.

  18. @Debit is that you?

    DCS? Hmmmmm. Democrat Communist Sympathizer?

    The best part about the Covid 19 pandemic is that it has unleashed so many medical and scientific experts into the wild. It’s amazing at all the armchair doctors we have these days.

  19. Given how high the March 2022 daily death counts are in “let it rip” Sweden — a country that has very high adult vaccination levels, got hit by a lot of Omicron cases not too long ago, and has Deltacron surging across all age ranges — I wouldn’t be so confident that this new B.A.2 variant is as “good” as some wishful thinkers take it to be.

    All the fanboys of Swedish “natural herd immunity” can’t objectively get around the Covid-19 daily death counts being so high in the country even at this point in March 2022.

    Whether or not taking the posh tin that the mask mandate and the testing mandate applicable to my flights should end, even inconvenient facts remain inconvenient facts.

  20. DCS,
    in all of your political bashing, you forgot to mention that more Americans died of covid in 2021 which was almost entirely under the Biden administration even w/ vaccines for most of the year than in 2020 which was all Trump, even adjusted on a per-month basis.

  21. DCS,, it is well settled in the law that “acceptable” is when the cost of the solution per life saved is less than the established value of a life lost. The value of a life lost established by the Federal government is approximately $1.4 million. I don’t disagree with you when you say that experts are working on “acceptable.” I’m simply identifying that there is a “bright line” objective standard that has been routinely employed when evaluating such things. Still, my sense is that — looking forward — the solution’s economic cost to society exceeds the value of future lives lost.

    You are correct in saying that commenters on this blog (or any other blog) are in no position to decide. This would also apply to commenters who are for continued use of masks and restrictions.

    As for your frustrations with commenters, as a regular, you should know that even an article about baggage allowance will somehow degenerate into a political brawl.

    By the way, I’m neither a liberal nor a MAGA guy.

    Have a magical day.

  22. Tim Dunn, the following is not a criticism but a general observation.

    If the argument is that COVID was going to make its way in irrespective of masks and restrictions, then we can’t point fingers at either side. It’s the same thing with the economy — neither a president nor Congress “controls” the economy. Precipitating contention among the masses / the mob is calculated to produce re-election — both sides do it.

  23. @Tim Dunn – Considering that his predecessor did not even believe the pandemic was real (“fake news!”) or tried to minimize its severity while promoting quack science (“Laser zap! Drink bleach!”), I was going to have a more pointed rebuttal to your suggesting that somehow Biden is to blame for more Americans dying after he was elected president, but @Joe Reno’s response does a nice job, although I do not fully subscribe to his “both sides do it” escapism…

  24. it is well settled in the law that “acceptable” is when the cost of the solution per life saved is less than the established value of a life lost.

    @Joe Reno — Nonsense because there is no way to set the value of a life saved or lost, which is why we must let the professionals do their jobs and guide us. You want to win a Superbowl? Then you put a ‘Tom Brady’ at quarterback. You do not go out and just get anyone off the street for position.

  25. Gary is correct but stating the obvious on this post. Even the Republic of Korea, which had great success against Covid, has seen startling increases in Covid since relaxing some Covid restrictions and having people relax their vigilance because of vaccines and statements that Omicron is not very dangerous. Thanks to the BA.2 Omicron strain, deaths in ROK are skyrocketing to 500 deaths per day and climbing.

    When you drop your guard, even a weak puncher can land a damaging blow.

    Based on these comments, the notion that people’s votes depend dropping the mask requirement on planes is far fetched.

  26. DCS, you misunderstand what I’ve said. I’m saying, in situations like this, experts / professionals ARE doing the work and ARE using that $1.4 million value all of the time. If you believe otherwise, you are misinformed. From a moral perspective, one can’t value a life. From a legal perspective, one can and it happens all of the time..

    Remember the 9/11 victims fund? The special master’s team independently developed a formula to determine the compensation to the family of each person who died. After all of that independent work, the average compensation ended up being that same $1.4 million per life lost.

    When the FAA comes across a safety issue, when determining whether to require a change / retrofit, its experts ask 1) how much will it cost industry to fix the problem and 2) what is the value of lives likely lost if it is not fixed. And, the FAA uses that $1.4 million figure. It’s done all of the time.

    Remember the aircraft oxygen generator fire issue? The FAA chose not to require airlines to retrofit aircraft if the cost to the industry would have been more than the value of lives lost — using that $1.4 million per life value.

    It seems clear that you’re unaware that this is standard practice . . . and it being employed by the experts you say should be doing the evaluation. And, this practice has passed muster in the courts.

    In the end, as Gary suggests, the decision might be driven more by politics. What if the experts are not done with their cost / benefit analysis? What if the scientists feel that we’re not ready to pull mandates? What if the decision IS political? Certainly, it will be positioned as being driven by science. How are you going to feel? Will the world be wrong and you will be right?

  27. @Joe Reno — You are misinformed or speaking of something totally different. Cost-benefit ratio analyses in the context of epidemiological studies of deadly diseases have little to do with dollar amounts. They use metrics derived from established data to assess what is an ‘acceptable” level of e.g., fatalities, without regard to how much money it would cost. For COVID-19, e.g., one might set the common flu as a benchmark for the level of mortality that would be acceptable to live with…

    G’day.

  28. DCS does an excellent job of validating my point. It’s apparent he’ll never figure it out. He’s turned being obtuse into an art form.

  29. @James N – You had no point; it was all gibberish, and that was my point, which just went by you as expected:“If the preceding makes no sense to you, then you are a card-carrying MAGA adherent, i.e., beyond redemption.”

    G’day.

  30. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area so you can imagine my political views.
    Regardless of that and regardless that I’ve had 2 Pfizer shots + 2 Pfizer boosters.
    I’ll continue to wear my mask in public until I FEEL it’s time to shed it and no one is going to tell me otherwise. From this point on we all collectively need to respect each other’s desires to wear or not wear a mask and live our lives.
    When traveling, I’ll probably wear a mask for the foreseeable future until I feel it’s safe to remove it completely – and if anyone has a problem with that – it’s called personal rights !

  31. @DCS, it’s a bonus that DT lives rent free in your head. You can take your adored fauci owchie tattoo and shout Muh muh muh science! from the treetops while the world continues to laugh at you and mock your Fauci adoring wokeness. Thanks for your well reasoned responses, it’s like getting two Babylon Bee articles today….you made my day!

  32. I half expected your article to make the case that masks will remain a requirement for flying if passengers continue with their infantile tantrums, Gary. With so many spectrum babies throwing fits over just about anything, airlines would be interested in doing anything and everything to keep passengers in check.

  33. @woketh sez;

    it’s a bonus that DT lives rent free in your head. You can take your adored fauci owchie tattoo and shout Muh muh muh science! from the treetops while the world continues to laugh at you and mock your Fauci adoring wokeness.

    .
    There you have it. Stupid as MAGA. Fauci is the very incarnation of Satan because he dared to challenge their naked emperor’s quack science. You can ask them to justify their hatred of the man whose passionate and tireless work on AIDS saved countless lives, especially among gay men, and they won’t be able to articulate a coherent rationale because the hatred is baseless and blind, just like their cult-like devotion to the worst POTUS in the history of the republic, i.e., ever.

  34. DCS, you are self-absorbed and preoccupied at being right in your position. You seem to relish in your own soliloquys. If this were an oral dialogue, you would relish in hearing your own voice. And, you can’t recognize when someone IS talking about something else . . . because the other person isn’t you. You are what in days past would have been called a macaroni. Look that one up.

  35. @Joe Reno – Argumentum ad hominem. Psychobabble instead of addressing an interlocutor’s argument is always a losing strategy. You made a claim and I made a counter-claim. Show me why the counter-claim is wrong.

    I recognize people’s arguments when they make sense. I will debunk nonsensical ones and invite anyone to do the same of mine. I am 100% sure that virtually everyone who comments in this space will point out flawed claims if or when they are sure that the claims are flawed (sometimes even when they are not sure). The forum is wide open for anyone to chime in. I exercise that option, and so do you, not just here but also in other forums where I comment. One could thus address at you the same psychobabble about ‘relishing in soliloquies’, but they are not soliloquies when others address them, as you did my comments, that is, until you could not refute an argument…

    Goodbye until your next unsupported claim…

  36. DCS your views are all that is wrong with American society at this point, and the reason why Americans have never been so far apart in they’re ideology. It’s my way or the highway with you. No middle ground exists. You attack people whose views are actually close to you’re own, simply because you can’t tolerate other options . Very sad indeed!

  37. @CMorgan – I couldn’t disagree more. Science is my beat; not politics. All I do, as part that life-long training and occupation, is b>tell it like it is, which I doubt is the reason why “Americans have never been so far apart in they’re ideology.” Rather, it is the exact opposite, i.e., the replacement of facts with conspiracy theories as promulgated by the “former guy” and his minions and sycophants, aka, MAGA-verse. That is the real reason why “Americans have never been so far apart in they’re ideology.”

    My beef with the “former guy” is not his politics, which change so often one is not sure what he stands for in that domain, but with his lack of an ethical or moral compass, coupled with pathological or malignant megalomania. He lies constantly in an effort shine a better light on himself than he deserves based on merit.

    Politically, I consider myself a left-leaning “centrist” and a capital “L” Liberal…

    I hope that shows you why you are wrong to think that folks like me are the reason America has been getting increasingly polarized. Folks like me are simply disgusted…

    G’day.

  38. Some years ago, I taught a college course on critical thinking which, of course, includes logical argument. Looking at this string of comments, I decided to capture some of the key arguments on each side. One side seems to strive for facts or common sense without very many ad hominem attacks. The other is almost all ad hominem attacks. It pretty well sums up the state of our society but it is a sad commentary. It would be interesting to correlate education levels as well as emotional intelligence for the commenters. Here is a representative set of examples.

    On one side:
    “Cases have receded thanks to increased protection….”
    “Even a poor mask, in combination with other measures, can boost protection”
    “People can protect themselves if they choose”
    “Even inconvenient facts remain inconvenient facts”
    “Deaths in ROK are skyrocketing”
    “We need to respect each other’s desires to wear or not wear a mask”

    On the other side:
    “Current leadership is a bunch….of mediocrities”
    “The lies and fraud continue to permeate society”
    “Anyone who thinks differently is a liar”
    “Hmmmmmm. Democratic communist sympathizer”
    “The stupid flight attendant’s Union”
    “You can take your adored fauci owchie tatoo”

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