Now We’re Getting Rid of Masks on Planes—Just as Covid Is Spiking Again

A federal judge struck down the CDC’s mask mandate for public travel.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

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Gear up for another round of mass pandemic chaos.

Not even a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its masks mandate for public travel—a move that reflected rising Covid trends from the BA.2 subvariant—a federal judge in Florida has struck down the order, sending airlines and other public transportation hubs into confusion.

It wasn’t immediately clear on Monday how soon masks would no longer be required or whether the Biden administration would seek to appeal. (My colleague Jeremy Schulman happened to be boarding a plane when he was alerted to the court ruling and has promised to keep us abreast of how the surprise change will affect compliance!)  In her ruling, Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle wrote that the CDC’s order exceeded the statutory authority and violated administrative law.

The CDC had previously extended the federal mask mandate to stay in effect until May 3 in order to monitor how the omicron subvariant BA.2 would transpire across the country. (Coincidentally, the requirement had been set to expire today.) The Northeast in particular has seen cases tick up significantly, with New York and New Jersey seeing average daily cases climb by an alarming 64 percent over the past week.

For transportation workers concerned about the rising numbers Monday order is likely to come as a distressing development. But it could also be welcomed by some, particularly airline staff, who have been under immense pressure since the start of the pandemic to get anti-mask passengers to comply with CDC rules. Personally, I see this as potentially setting the stage for a whole new wave of conflicts, with those opposed to masks confronting those who still choose to wear them.

Either way, don’t say I didn’t warn you. More chaos ahead. Beep beep!

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Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

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