The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reported a 50 percent jump in active COVID-19 infections amongst employees in the two weeks since the federal face mask mandate was lifted.
On Monday, around 542 employees at the agency were off work with COVID-19, compared to 359 suffering from Coronavirus on April 18 – the same day that a Florida judge struck down the mask mandate.
Federal judge Kathryn Mizelleon vacated the mandate on the grounds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had overreached by creating masking rules without first having the mandate cleared by Congress.
Although the CDC has asked the Department of Justice to appeal the ruling, the mask mandate was almost immediately rescinded after more than two years in force.
The TSA was the federal agency responsible for enforcing masking rules on public transport through the Security Directives and Emergency Amendment.
There is no direct evidence to connect the lifting of masking rules with the rise in COVID-19 infections amongst TSA staffers. The United States is currently witnessing a national uptick in Coronavirus infections which could be down to several different factors, including the relaxation of mask rules.
The CDC continues to advise that everyone aged two and over wear a face mask on public transport – including passengers and workers.
“Wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator is most beneficial in crowded or poorly ventilated locations, such as airport jetways,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
In a statement, the CDC said the recommendation was based on “the currently available data, including an understanding of domestic and global epidemiology, circulating variants and their impact on disease severity and vaccine effectiveness, current trends in COVID-19 Community Levels within the United States, and projections of COVID-19 trends in the coming months.”
A growing number of countries have lifted masking rules on public transportation, although many other governments have tempered the ending of general mask mandates by keeping them in place on airplanes and other forms of public transport.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.