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You Can Throw Away Those Masks if You're Flying... or Can You? Not so Fast

Image credit: Adobe Stock
Image credit: Adobe Stock

For travelers tired of wearing masks, a new pre-flight announcement is music to the ears: "Masks are now optional."

Just 24 hours after the federal mask mandate was struck down for travel on planes and public transportation, signage in airports started being removed and the masks started coming off. 
Atlanta resident Patricia Manns said, "I think it's wonderful. I just want to scream and tell everybody, 'Take those masks off, enjoy life, breathe.'"

But while Amtrak and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have also dropped their mask rules, several major cities like New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco still require them on some public transit, which means passengers are still forced to wear masks at some airports but not on the actual planes.

One traveler said, "It's contradicting, 'Don't do this, don't do that,' and then we have to listen to both."

And some are still wearing masks anyway.

Airline passenger Sarah Murray said, "We've got a little one here who's too young to be vaccinated. We are going to be careful. While on the airport and the plane we are going to wear our masks." 

The White House COVID response coordinator tweeted that the mandate reversal is "deeply disappointing" and suggested people continue to mask up on planes. 

When Joe Biden was asked if people should continue to wear masks on planes, he responded, "That's up to them."

Many flight attendants are happy they won't have to deal with passengers who refuse to wear masks. The Federal Aviation Administration says from January 2021 to April 12th of this year, the agency recorded over 7,000 unruly passenger reports with at least 5,000 of those incidents mask-related.

The Department of Justice says it will not appeal the decision unless the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the requirement is still necessary.

The DOJ issued a statement saying, "The Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disagree with the district court's decision and will appeal, subject to CDC's conclusion that the order remains necessary for public health. The Department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health."

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