Mask mandate no longer in effect for most U.S. public transportation

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 6:28 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A huge change for public transportation across the country: the CDC mask mandate for planes and trains is no longer in effect.

A U.S. district judge appointed by former President Donald Trump struck the federal order down on April 18. So how will this impact you on your next plane, train, or bus ride?

At Memphis International Airport, passenger Debbie Burger was elated to hear the news that masks are no longer required for air travel.

“I hate wearing a mask,” she told Action News 5, “and I’m from Florida, so let’s go Florida. Let’s get rid of these masks!”

Travelers’ opinions are definitely divided over Monday’s court ruling. Passenger Jalen Mitchell will keep his mask on, for now.

“I just got off a plane with like 191 people,” he said, “So yeah, I don’t know anyone on the plane, so I’ve got to wear a mask.”

Passengers said things would be different if they were flying internationally.

“I might be more concerned then, but right now in the states I’m not really worried about it right now,” said Burger.

A federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s requirement that all travelers wear a mask on airplanes, buses, trains and other modes of public transportation calling the mandate “unlawful.”

The White House says while the ruling is under review, the TSA will not enforce mandatory masking.

Action News 5 asked Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease expert at Baptist Hospital, to weigh in on the safety concerns.

“A plane strangely is one of the lower risk areas that you can be in just because of the very high air flow turnover on an airplane, so there’s never been a huge amount of transmission on an actual flight, but as you’re standing in line, around people, in a crowded circumstance waiting to board the plane that’s where a lot of the transmission has probably happened,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

Taking a train? Amtrak released a statement saying: “While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19. Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.”

The Memphis Area Transit Authority provided Action News 5 with the following preliminary statement after the judge’s ruling:

“MATA is reviewing the decision and assessing next steps. We will continue to provide updates.”

When asked if that means MATA riders still have to mask up at the terminal or on buses, a MATA spokesperson told Action News 5: “We will provide updates to our riders and all stakeholders as developments continue to become available.”

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