Mask mandate for travelers no longer in effect

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:28 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022
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4:49 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Biden says it's up to travelers whether to wear masks on planes 

From CNN's DJ Judd

President Joe Biden wears a mask as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden wears a mask as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Upon arriving to New Hampshire, President Biden answered two questions about a Monday ruling overturning his administration’s mask mandate on mass transit.

Pressed on if people should still wear masks on planes, Biden told reporters, “That’s up to them.”

Asked in New Hampshire if he wants the Department of Justice to appeal the new mask ruling, Biden said, “I haven’t spoken to the CDC yet.”

And when later pressed on the trip about whether there would be an appeal, Biden repeated, “I haven’t gotten any brief from my CDC. I don’t know. We’re following the science.”

2:01 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

White House says Biden administration is "reviewing next steps" following ruling overturning mask mandate

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t say if the Department of Justice plans to challenge a federal judge’s ruling overturning the mask mandate for mass transportation Tuesday, instead telling reporters the administration is “reviewing next steps.” 

“I don’t think they’ve made any announcement at this point in time, so, as we’ve said, agencies are reviewing next steps, including the Department of Justice, traditionally following court decisions, that can take a couple of days,” Psaki told reporters traveling with the President to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on board Air Force One.

“And just as a reminder, when we made this announcement, the CDC said it needed 15 days to assess the impacts of an uptick in cases, in hospitalizations, deaths, and hospital capacity. We feel—still feel—that is entirely reasonable and public health decisions shouldn’t be made by the courts, they should be made by public health experts," she continued.

Psaki added that it “typically takes a couple of days,” for the DOJ to review and file a motion to appeal a judge’s ruling, but that the administration was “confident in our authorities,” to impose the federal mask mandate in the first place.

She said the DOJ “haven’t made that decision [to appeal] yet, and it takes a couple days, some time to make that assessment.”

Psaki dismissed charges that the judge’s ruling Monday led to confusion in enforcement.

“I would discount the notion that people are confused, we are here to alleviate the confusion, right? So, the CDC continues to advise and recommend masks on airplanes,” she said. “We’re abiding by the CDC recommendations, the President is, and we would advise all Americans to do that. This is a ruling by the court, we obviously didn’t have advance notice of it, and it typically takes a couple of days to assess next steps in these cases.”

 

2:53 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Port Authority of NY and NJ lifts mask mandate in one state but not the other

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia and Rob Frehse

Mass transit riders wear masks as they commute thru the Oculus in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Mass transit riders wear masks as they commute thru the Oculus in Manhattan on Tuesday. (John Minchillo/AP)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced adjusted mask guidance following the federal ruling, keeping masks in New York facilities but lifting the mandate in New Jersey facilities, in line with state guidelines.

In New York at airports run by the Port Authority, including LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as various bus stations and the World Trade Center Oculus transportation hub, mask mandates remain in effect, a statement from the agency said. 

According to the statement, the mandate remains in effects at the following locations: 

  • Port Authority Midtown Bus Terminal 
  • George Washington Bridge Bus Station
  • World Trade Center Oculus Transportation Hub
  • LaGuardia Airport
  • JFK International Airport
  • New York Stewart International Airport

At New Jersey airports run by the Port Authority, including Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport, the mask mandate has been lifted, the statement said.

The mask mandate remains in effect for the PATH system that runs through both states, including stations and platforms, with the exception of open-air platforms.

12:02 p.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Watch the moment a flight crew announces the federal mandate has been lifted before plane's departure

From CNN’s Caroll Alvarado 

Dave Studinski was on a Delta flight Monday evening from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City to San Francisco International Airport when a crew member announced that masks will be optional for crew members and passengers.

During the announcement, the crew member also said “it is a cause to celebrate, but for those who want to wear masks, please feel free to, but it is optional.” 

Studinski told CNN the following about his reaction:

“Admittedly, it is quite the moment to be sitting there hearing and experiencing. You're one of the first flights to take off under that new change. You catch yourself mid-flight with the mask off and panic a second in guilt. Reminds me of when we could start listening to personal devices above/below 10,000 feet.”

In a separate tweet, Studinski said, "On this day last year, I was isolating because of a breakthrough COVID-19 infection. It was a little more than a month after my J&J poke. Symptoms were quite mild - I was fortunate. The vaccines work."

11:52 a.m. ET, April 19, 2022

CDC says it will not enforce mask order, but continues to recommend masks on public transportation

From CNN's Brenda Goodman

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it will not enforce a travel mask order, but it will continue to recommend masks on public transportation.

CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund on Tuesday issued the following statement to CNN after a federal judge in Florida ruled that the agency’s order requiring masks on public transportation was unlawful:

“As a result of a court order, effective immediately and as of April 18, 2022, CDC’s January 29, 2021 Order requiring masks on public transportation conveyances and at transportation hubs is no longer in effect. Therefore, CDC will not enforce the Order. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time.”

11:47 a.m. ET, April 19, 2022

White House pushes back on Delta Air Lines' characterization of Covid-19 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Delta Airlines jets are seen behind travelers passing through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on April 11.
Delta Airlines jets are seen behind travelers passing through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on April 11. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House is pushing back on Delta Air Lines after the company referred to Covid-19 as an "ordinary seasonal virus" in its post announcing that masks are optional on its flights.

The original post read: "We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel and COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus.”

A White House spokesperson for Covid issues, Kevin Munoz, replied "COVID is not an “ordinary seasonal virus” and linked to Biden's 100-page Covid preparedness plan.

As of 10 a.m. ET this morning, Delta has removed the reference to "ordinary seasonal virus" and replaced it with this sentence: "We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus – with better treatments, vaccines and other scientific measures to prevent serious illness."

On Monday evening, the Biden administration said the mask mandate was no longer in effect after a judge voided it, though noted the CDC still recommends wearing masks on planes.

10:53 a.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Lyft suspends masks requirements for US drivers and riders

From CNN's Brian Fung

Lyft is suspending mask requirements for US drivers and riders, the ride-hailing company said Tuesday.

In addition, Lyft passengers will again be allowed to sit in the front seats of vehicles.

"While riders and drivers can always cancel any ride they don’t wish to take, health safety reasons – like not wearing a mask – will no longer appear as cancellation options in the app," the company said in a blog post.

The changes come one day after a federal judge struck down the Biden administration's mask mandate for airplanes and other public transport methods. And it follows in the footsteps of Uber, which has also moved to lift mask requirements on its platform. 

Masks may still be required by law in some jurisdictions, Lyft added.

11:01 a.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Here's what you need to know about the new US rules on masks and flying

From CNN's Tamara Hardingham-Gill

Travelers check in at the Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday.
Travelers check in at the Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Air passengers in the US have been removing their Covid-19 face coverings after a federal judge ruled that the government's mask mandate on commercial planes was unlawful.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously insisted mask rules remain in place until May 3, but the judge in Florida struck down that directive on Monday.

Airlines have already begun relaxing mask requirements but not without some initial confusion.

Some more context: Mask requirements for US travelers were initially enforced by major airlines in the spring of 2020, before being federally mandated in February 2021 for airplanes and other public transport methods.

If you're thinking about flying soon, here's what you need to know about the new rules on masks:

  • What are the new rules for flying in the US: Most major airlines in the United States have made mask wearing optional following the latest legal ruling, although some have said that face coverings may be required when flying to or arriving at certain destinations. In the wake of the new ruling, the government's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it will not enforce mask wearing on public transport or hubs. Airlines have enforced their own mask rules in the past, before the mandate was enforced, but most have now rescinded the requirement.
  • Are airlines still making masks optional? Yes. Major US airlines announced on Monday that masks are now optional on their aircraft. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air, Hawaiian Airlines and Sun Country Airlines have all ceased to require face coverings. This means both passengers and crew members for these carriers are no longer required to wear them on domestic flights at present.
  • What are the chances that rules will change yet again? It's unclear. The removal of the mandate was abrupt development after US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle overturned the mandate. A Biden administration official later confirmed that the order would not be in effect while the ruling is under review. It's not immediately known how long that review will be and what will result from it. "The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps," the Biden administration official said Monday night. "In the meantime, today's court decision means CDC's public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time."

Read more about this here.

10:33 a.m. ET, April 19, 2022

Nearly 2.3 million people screened at US airports on day mask mandate was struck down

From CNN's Greg Wallace

Travelers are seen at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday.
Travelers are seen at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. (Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)

Nearly 2.3 million people passed through airport security checkpoints on Monday, the day a federal judge struck down the federal transportation mask mandate.   

The 2,288,902 travelers represent 88% of the nearly 2.6 million travelers the Transportation Security Administration screened on the equivalent day in 2019, prior to the pandemic.   

The agency has reported screening about 90% of 2019 levels this month, which includes the busy spring break travel period.