Reactions in the United States after the end of the mandate of the transport mask

(CNN) — Scenes ranging from excitement to confusion played out at airports across the United States on Monday after a federal judge overturned the Joe Biden administration’s mask mandate for public transportation.

Some passengers learned of the Florida judge’s decision on the rule to mitigate the threat of covid-19 moments before takeoff, as flight attendants announced that, for the first time in nearly two years, masks were optional.

Southwest passenger Pam Eason captured on video the moment a crew member told a plane full of passengers that Southwest had waived the mask requirement. In the video, passengers are heard cheering and clapping, with one saying, “Yes, no more masks!”

“What an incredible relief!” Eason told CNN his reaction to the news. “Glory to God, we have all done our part to get where we are.”

On a Sun Country Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Minneapolis-St. Paul, a flight attendant came down the aisle with a trash bag for passengers to throw away their masks.

The judge’s decision comes after nearly two years of mask requirements for U.S. travelers, first enforced by major airlines in the spring of 2020, then made federally mandatory in February 2021 for airplanes and other means of travel. public transport.

The Transportation Security Administration confirmed Monday that it will end the warrant, and an extension that was set to take effect Tuesday will also be rescinded.

Still, some airport travelers plan to continue wearing masks, even without a federal mandate or airline rules, they told CNN. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend the wearing of masks for passengers using domestic public transportation.

“I will always wear my mask,” Davida Wright said at Hollywood Burbank Airport in California. “I lost my grandmother to covid a year ago, and that’s why I’m very picky about masks, so I will continue to wear them, regardless of mandates.”

“I protect myself by wearing my mask,” he said, adding that his young daughter would also continue to wear it.

Some said they would consider circumstances when deciding whether to wear masks, including factors such as crowd size or whether they knew people were vaccinated.

“I feel a lot more comfortable with a mask on most of the time,” Jason Alexander said as he prepared to board a flight at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, describing what it was like to see the others without a mask. “Certainly in areas where there are a lot of people, I’m still not comfortable with people not wearing masks.”

Passengers wearing face masks line up in March 2021 at a ticket counter in the main terminal at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York.

Airlines announce that wearing a mask is optional

Before airlines individually announced whether they would continue to require face coverings without a federal mandate, there was some confusion among passengers and airline staff.

When Delta passenger Elizabeth Nesmith boarded her flight on Monday, an airline employee told her she had to wear a mask because they hadn’t received any information from Delta, she said. But soon after, a flight attendant announced that Delta had made using it optional.

American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Jet Blue and Spirit also said they would drop mask requirements.

Some airlines have also asked passengers to respect the decision of others to wear a mask.

“While we’re glad this means many of us can see your smiling faces, we understand that some may have mixed feelings,” Alaska Airlines said on its website. “Please remember to be courteous to others and wearing a mask while traveling is always an option.”

Alaska Airlines also noted that some passengers who were barred from the airline when the mask policy was in effect will continue to be barred from its planes.

The Flight Attendants Association has asked “everyone to be patient, remain calm and continue to follow the instructions of crew members” as rule adjustments continue, it said Monday in a statement.

Travelers who are uncomfortable with the changes can continue to mitigate infection risks, said Dr. Leana Wen, professor of health policy and management at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. .

“People need to remember that just because the government doesn’t require you to wear a mask doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear one. I will definitely wear a mask when I go on planes, trains, airports,” he told CNN.

“Make sure if you’re wearing a mask that you’re wearing an N95 or equivalent because you need to protect yourself,” Wen said. “Put on a mask works great even if others around you don’t.”

Some agencies maintain mask requirements

Philadelphia mandates use of masks due to rising cases 2:24

Although the mandate is at the federal level — and some transportation services like Amtrak have announced that wearing masks will be optional — other agencies are still following CDC guidelines and keeping mask requirements active.

New Jersey Transit and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority are among those who announced Monday that they will continue to require on-board masks for passengers when traveling. Besides, TriMet of Portland, Seattle’s King County Metro and the Chicago Transit Authority said they would maintain their mask policies for the time being.

In Atlanta, the MARTA transit system will no longer require passengers and employees to wear masks. SEPTAin Philadelphia, and CapMetro in Austin, Texas, also announced they were waiving their mask requirements, but noted that the CDC still recommends passengers wear them.

The push-and-pull of different agencies and cities keeping or even reinstating mask mandates will sometimes be “a little confusing,” Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Center for Vaccine Education at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Monday.

Philadelphia, for example, began mandating the use of masks in many closed venues and restaurants on Monday as COVID-19 infection rates rise, hitting crowds at particularly NBA playoff games.

“On Saturday the Philadelphia 76ers hosted the Toronto Raptors and there were 20,000 people in the stands who weren’t wearing masks. Tonight when they host them, there will be 20,000 people in the stands who, by definition , are going to have to wear masks,” Offit told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Although cases are on the rise, since the vast majority of Americans have some form of protection from previous infection or vaccination, “this will most likely not precede an increase in hospitalizations and hospital admissions.” intensive care unit and deaths, we’ll see,” he said. “I think that’s where we are right now in this pandemic.”

CNN’s Paul Vercammen, Liam Reilly, Ken Borland, David Williams, Tierney Sneed, Pete Muntean, David Shortell, Taylor Romine, Artemis Moshtaghian, Gregory Wallace and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

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