Uptick in Covid-19 Cases as Federal Judge Lifts Mask Requirement on Planes and Public Transport

Image courtesy of The New York Times

By Noelia Veras

After lifting mask mandates in several areas of the U.S. and life seemingly returning back to normal for many people, there has been an uptick of Covid-19 cases throughout the country. Earlier this month on April 10, there were an average of more than 31,000 new cases being reported each day, a 3% increase from two weeks ago. 

“This is not unexpected — that you’re going to see an uptick when you pull back on the mitigation methods,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

There was certainly fair warning of an uptick in cases however. On March 22, Dr. Fauci predicted the uptick in U.S. Covid-19 cases due to the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, saying “We can’t claim absolute victory.”

Due to the uptick of cases, Philadelphia reinstated the mask mandate, though the choice has been heavily debated as many airlines and other forms of public transport have lifted restrictions. The city stated though that the choice was made due to a 50% increase in cases over the span of the past two weeks.

“Philadelphia stands out among big cities for reviving an indoors mask mandate just as federal requirements are lifted on planes, trains and other types of transportation,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Many of the mask mandates on airplanes and other forms of public transport have been lifted due to a ruling from a federal judge in Florida, who struck down the mandate on mass transit. After this ruling, many airlines and airports have repealed their face covering requirements. 

According to the Associated Press, passengers on a Delta flight between Atlanta and Barcelona, Spain cheered as a flight attendant announced mid-flight that masks were ruled optional. Many of the larger airlines like Delta have similarly made mask coverings optional, and large airports in Houston and Dallas swiftly eliminated their mandate. The fifth-largest passenger volume airport in the country, the Los Angeles International Airport, dropped its mandate as well.

However, on Wednesday, the Biden administration appealed the federal court’s ruling to strike down mask mandates for those on planes, trains, buses, and other public transportation. This came after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that mask requirements are “necessary for the public health.”

Vox has labeled this as the “choose-your-own-adventure phase of the pandemic.” As of Wednesday, the publication found that cases jumped 47 percent nationwide.

“According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s March poll, 27 percent of Americans say they have basically returned to doing what they normally did before the pandemic,” Vox reporter Dylan Scott said. “Another 14 percent said that they never changed their behavior — meaning nearly half of the country is living as if Covid-19 had never happened.” 

There are still large numbers of people who have completely different outlooks regarding the pandemic. 

“Too many Americans seem to believe the Covid-19 pandemic is over — or at least that conditions have improved to such an extent that they can forgo precautions,” Lucky Tran and Oni Blackstock said in a Washington Post opinion piece.

Evidently, attitudes regarding the mask mandate and the striking down of mask requirements are very polarized in the U.S. What many are saying is that regardless of the ruling to lift the mask mandate, people are still able to protect themselves from Covid-19 by wearing quality masks. 
“If you have a good-fitting mask, a high-quality mask on and you’re wearing it well, you’re going to afford yourself a high degree of protection,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr, Scott Gottlieb said. “One-way masking does work.”

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