CDC Urges Americans to Wear Masks on Planes Despite Lift on Mandate

"Wearing a mask in indoor public transportation settings will provide protection for the individual and the community," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said Tuesday.

Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport wearing their face coverings
Photo: Brittany Murray/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated its recommendation for Americans to wear masks on public transportation this week, as the Department of Justice works to appeal a Florida ruling that overturned the federal transportation mask mandate.

The CDC on Tuesday said it was beneficial to continue to wear a mask in "crowded or poorly ventilated locations," like on airplanes, in airports, and on airport jetways, noting the recommendation was based on "currently available data."

While cases in the United States remain well below the winter omicron-related surge, numbers have been increasing in recent weeks with the 7-day moving average of new cases topping more than 60,000 on Tuesday, according to the CDC's data. New cases are largely driven by a new omicron subvariant, BA.2, according to the agency.

"CDC continues to recommend that all people — passengers and workers, alike — properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator in indoor public transportation conveyances and transportation hubs to provide protection for themselves and other travelers in these high volume, mixed population settings," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said in a statement. "We now have a range of tools we need to protect ourselves from the impact of COVID-19, including access to high-quality masks and respirators for all who need them."

"Additionally, it is important for all of us to protect not only ourselves, but also to be considerate of others at increased risk for severe COVID-19 and those who are not yet able to be vaccinated. Wearing a mask in indoor public transportation settings will provide protection for the individual and the community," she added.

The federal transportation mask mandate was initially implemented in January 2021 and extended several times since before a federal judge in Florida voided it last month. Following that, major U.S. airlines, airports across the country, Uber and Lyft, and Amtrak were all quick to drop mask-wearing policies.

The Department of Justice has since appealed the decision at the request of the CDC.

Beyond masks, the CDC has made changes to how it warns against traveling to destinations amid the coronavirus pandemic, relaxing its definition of "Level 4" destinations and saving it for "special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, or healthcare infrastructure collapse."

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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