Airline CEOs ask Biden to lift mask mandate

(The Center Square) – A group of 10 major airlines are now calling on President Joe Biden to lift the federal transit mask mandate, one of the last remaining mask mandates in the country.

The industry group Airlines for America sent a letter to the White House saying rules like the mask mandate “no longer make sense.”

“Our industry has leaned into science at every turn. At the outset, we voluntarily implemented policies and procedures – mandating face coverings; requiring passenger health acknowledgements and contact tracing information; and enhancing cleaning protocols – to form a multi-layered approach to mitigate risk and prioritize the wellbeing of passengers and employees,” the letter said. “However, much has changed since these measures were imposed and they no longer make sense in the current public health context.”

The letter was signed by the heads of leading companies, namely Alaska Air Group, American Airlines, Atlas Air Worldwide, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines Holdings, and UPS Airlines. They pointed to the decrease in severity of the pandemic.

“The high level of immunity in the U.S., availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to use them, hospital-grade cabin air, widespread vaccine availability and newly available therapeutics provide a strong foundation for the Administration to lift the mask mandate and predeparture testing requirements,” the letter said. “We urge you to do so now. We are requesting this action not only for the benefit of the traveling public, but also for the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to COVID-19.”

The request comes after the Transportation Security Administration raised eyebrows with its recent decision to extend its mask mandate for planes, trains and airports until April 18.

“At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18th,” the TSA said. “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. This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change.”

TSA’s decision sparked controversy in part because U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials said in February that masks are no longer necessary for the majority of Americans.

“We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing …” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in the February announcement.

Local and state governments around the country have abandoned mask mandates in even the strictest areas.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a measure that passed the Senate that would overturn the TSA rule through the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the power to overturn executive branch rules with a simple majority vote, usually within 60 days of their creation.

“…the Senate said enough is enough, and sent a message to unelected government bureaucrats to stop the anti-science, nanny state requirement of travel mask mandates,” said Paul, who is a physician. “Since March 2020, unelected bureaucrats have incessantly declared that we should ‘follow the science.’ But the same bureaucrats continue to defy science by imposing an ineffective and restrictive mask mandate for individuals traveling on public transit and airplanes. As the entire world is learning to live with COVID, the federal government still uses fear mongering to stubbornly perpetuate its mandates, rather than giving clear-eyed, rational advice on how to best protect yourself from illness. That is why I forced this vote, and I applaud the Senate for rejecting this nonsense.”

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