HELENA — This week a Florida judge overturned the CDC’s mask mandate for planes and public transportation. This ruling comes mere days after the CDC’s recent 15-day extension of the mandate.
Videos circulating online showcase passengers without masks celebrating on a plane and even an airline flight attendant offering a garbage bag for masks due to the recent ruling by a Florida judge.
In Helena, travelers had mixed reactions to the change in flight policy.
“Very relieved. I came from Salt Lake City and so the airport is very, very big and so not having to wear a mask was fantastic,” says airline passenger, Kelsey Bird.
With rising COVID levels nationwide, and the more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant, some are concerned as to how this will impact the spread of COVID-19.
“I just don’t think it's safe. And, you know, particularly for the vulnerable people: older people, children who can't be vaccinated, immune-compromised people. So, it's, I think it's premature,” says Ouri Malliris, another airline passenger.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce masking. The CDC does still recommend that people wear masks while taking public transit.
Various airlines such as Delta, Alaska, and Southwest dropped their requirement for masks. The ruling also applies to other forms of transportation such as trains, buses, and taxis.
“The industry was anticipating at some point that it was likely probably going to go away. I don't think we expected it quite this quick and this sudden because the, you know, there was the recent extension to May 3rd,” says Jeff Wadekamper, Airport Director at the Helena Regional Airport.
The White House administration is reviewing the ruling, and the Justice Department may still appeal the decision.
With airlines facing record-high staffing shortages, it remains unclear how the overturning of the mandate will impact the flight industry.