Mask Mandates At A Glance:
- Several European countries with prior strict COVID policies drop mask mandates in airports.
- U.S. TSA extends mask mandates until April 18.
- Senate votes to take control back from CDC.
- Biden threatens to veto.
Travelers through the world’s airports are starting to see mask mandates fall. From London’s Heathrow, once one of the strictest travel destinations requiring quarantine upon entry, to France’s Charles De Gaulle and Orly airports in a country where protestors frequently took to the streets, airports are letting the masks drop.
Several airlines, including British Air and Virgin Atlantic, are also revising their onboard policies. Passengers will not be required to wear masks unless their final destination deems it necessary. Virgin Atlantic’s chief customer and operating officer, Corneel Koster, issued a statement:
“With the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice whether to wear a mask onboard, on routes where international regulations around mask-wearing do not apply.”
Jet2 was the first airline to drop mask restrictions in flights to and from Northern Ireland and England at the beginning of March. Last week, Danish airports dropped mask mandates in airports. Last fall, many other Scandinavian countries led the dropping of mandates.
TSA Extends U.S. Mask Mandate
Meanwhile, in the United States, the TSA pointed to the CDC’s recommendation last week as it extended the mask mandate in airports through April 18th. This includes all flights beginning, ending, and through the United States, all airports, and other public transit systems. The public health order has currently been in place for over a year.
The TSA and CDC’s recommendations for extended masking for transportation came after the CDC relaxed it’s general masking for people indoors last month.
The updated CDC recommendation came within days of the State of the Union address where few masks were seen on the House floor. The Super Bowl, held in Los Angles California, was another crowded event filled with unmasked spectators from around the world.
Last week the CDC revised the number of Americans living in low transition areas to 98%.
Senate passes Joint Resolution/House hasn’t voted yet
Prior to the TSA’s extension, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), introduced Senate Joint Resolution 37. The text, taking on the TSA’s mandate in relation to the lack of respect for the Congressional Review Act, reads:
Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relating to “Requirement for Persons To Wear Masks While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs”.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relating to “Requirement for Persons To Wear Masks While on Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs” (86 Fed. Reg. 8025 (February 3, 2021); determined through a letter of opinion from the Government Accountability Office dated December 14, 2021, and printed in the Congressional Record on December 15, 2021, on pages S9206–S9208, that the order is a rule under the Congressional Review Act), and such rule shall have no force or effect.
The resolution passed the Senate March 15, 2022, with a vote of 57-40 with eight Democrats crossing the aisle and three others not voting. The corresponding House Resolution H.J. 72 was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on February 18.
The resolution was proposed to delegate power back to Congress rather than allow the CDC to impose public health policy mandates at will by un-elected officials. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) stated:
…the vote was dangerous because it would not only bar the existing CDC order but prevent the agency from imposing future mask rules.
He noted the COVID upsurge in China and parts of Europe and asked what happens if the United States faced a new variant. ‘Wouldn’t we want the CDC to have the power immediately upon an upsurge of COVID nationally to impose a mask requirement on transportation?’
Biden Threatens to Veto; Travel Associations Continue to Suffer
The U.S. Travel Association has urged Joe Biden to send a message to the public that travel is open and safe:
“The travel industry continues to be challenged with a slow economic recovery even with improved public health metrics in the U.S. and medical advancements, especially in the business and international travel segments,” CEO Roger Dow said in a news release.
The agency also asked the Biden administration to “help normalize travel conditions” by repealing both the mask mandate and pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international inbound air travelers.
Joe Biden has threatened to veto the act should it make it to his desk.
Congress and White House Not the Only Ones Disgruntled With Differing Opinions
In a study released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, in the 13 months since the TSA’s mask mandate has been instituted, over $640,000 in fines representing 922 violations have been issued. Of those, 44 violations covered travel other than airports and planes. Additionally, more than 2,700 travelers received warnings due to 7,000 reported incidents.
The Federal Aviation Administration has also reported investigating 6,800 airline passengers causing disturbances. Of those, 4,800 reports were for passengers not wearing masks. Over $5 million of fines cover 450 investigations.
Hold the Phone — Doc’s Thoughts:
It seems some countries are responding to the pressure people are putting on their governments. However, we know now isn’t the time to let up. We need to stay diligent in making sure resolutions like the one proposed by Senator Paul become law, otherwise we have other lawmakers like Kaine abdicating their responsibility and handing it over to the unelected CDC.
People are confused. So many are still following these policy makers and just going along with whatever mandate is handed down or lifted. Possibly even more concerning, is that some are just waiting to hear what the media will tell them.
It is imperative that we handle law creation in the proper channels. We must also understand, though, that we aren’t going to make everyone happy. Some very interesting solutions have been proposed, such as:
Frequent flier Jade Eyles, an assistant teaching fellow at Imperial College London, tells CNN Travel she thinks one solution could be seating passengers in the cabin in accordance with their face covering preference.
“Keeping those who would like to wear a mask in one section would then reduce the risk of transmission for that population, and supports those individuals who are vulnerable or do want to take additional precautions to not catch Covid-19,” she says.
Now, I know that most people aren’t “following science,” but this one takes the cake. Stay up to date on what Congress is doing. This proposed bill is actually a good one. Call your Representatives and remind them who they work for. You, the taxpayer. You have the right and responsibility to get involved and defend your freedoms.