The last masking holdouts
A dwindling number of places are requiring masks as the U.S. inches towards normalcy — with airplanes, trains and buses the notable holdouts.
The big picture: The TSA's mask mandate stands in stark contrast to virtually every other venue across the U.S., where masks have largely been nixed.
- Governors, including from blue states, have lifted masking in public spaces as lawmakers tout that the pandemic has entered an "endemic phase."
- School districts — including the most hesitant — have largely abandoned masking requirements.
- And Hawaii, the last U.S. state with a statewide mandate, announced that it is ending its mask mandate later this month.
Zoom in: The Transportation Security Administration last week extended its mask mandate that was originally set to expire on March 18 for another month.
- "During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor," the TSA said in a statement.
Medical experts advocate for continued masking on public transportation, specifically air travel, to reduce broader community transmission.
- One person wearing a masks reduces the likelihood of getting COVID-19 by about 50%, Leonard J. Marcus, director of the Aviation Public Health Initiative at Harvard University said, adding that the chance of transmitting also decreases by about 50%.
- "If you put that together – so you’ve got a lot of people on an aeroplane, everybody’s wearing a mask – you’ve done something, in combination with the ventilation system, that really reduces the likelihood of transmission," Marcus said.
State of play: The TSA's requirement has drawn criticism from some Americans, including a group of senators, who say all mask mandates should be abandoned.
- The Senate passed a resolution this week in a 57-40 vote that would undo the TSA's extended mask mandate, with eight Democrats signing on, NBC News reports.
- "We have it within our power today to ensure the American people that we are irreversibly going back to normal," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said.
Between the lines: Many Americans, including individuals with compromised immune systems that put them at greater risk for severe illness, feel left behind as the country ditches mandates, the New York Times reports.
- "I know my normal is never going to be normal," 44-year-old Chris Neblett, who is immunocompromised, told Kaiser Health News.
- "I’m still going to be wearing a mask in public. I’m still probably going to go to the grocery store late at night or early in the morning to avoid other people."
The bottom line: "You don’t want to be translocating the disease—taking it from a place where there’s very high transmission to a place where there’s lower transmission," Marcus also said.
- "Taking particular care when people are in transit at this point of the pandemic is still a really good idea."