Los Angeles is now requiring face masks on its transit network despite a federal order striking down the rule federally, while Philadelphia scraps its mandate as Democrat-led states continue to flip-flop between Covid rules.
Health officials in the Southern California city said elevated levels of transmission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recommendation to bring back masks led them to re-impose the rules.
‘They are experts. They made a determination that at this point having that requirement in place is necessary for the public’s health, and that resonates with us,’ Barbara Ferrer, LA’s health director, said at a press conference.
The move is despite a Florida-based federal judge striking down the CDC’s order on Monday, saying the agency had ‘exceeded’ its authority. The Department of Justice is appealing the ruling.
Philadelphia on Thursday voted to scrap its mask mandate for inside public buildings after just four days, with city health officials claiming they had ‘always’ aimed to end it ‘as soon as possible’. Daily Covid cases in the city have surged 70 per cent since the mandate was brought in on average, while hospitalizations are up about 40 per cent.
The 1.5million-strong Pennsylvanian city was blasted when coverings were brought back for indoor public places including schools, restaurants and major buildings, with even scientists who had previously backed face masks warning against the move.
New York is one of the other Democrat-led cities that currently require face masks to be worn on public transport. Both San Francisco and Boston recently dropped their mandates, after initially sticking to CDC guidance, while schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ended their mask mandate a day after imposing the rule.
America’s Covid cases have risen by a third over the past two weeks, and are now averaging about 39,500 a day. They are ticking up in 41 states, with the fastest increases in Michigan (up 184 percent), Kansas (up 169 percent) and Nebraska (up 134 percent). Mississippi, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas are all seeing drops in infection rates.
Deaths from the virus are down 29 per cent compared to a week ago, to 363 a day on average — the lowest figure since the start of August. Hospitalizations are up eight per cent over the same period, with 1,582 recorded on average by April 19, the latest available.
Philadelphia has today announced it will drop its indoor mask mandate, instead only ‘strongly encouraging’ their use. Pictured: NBA fans wear masks while watching a game at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center
Ferrer said she was re-imposing the mask mandate in part in response to Covid case numbers, despite the area’s transport network announcing it was preparing to drop the rules.
But official data from Los Angeles shows it is currently recording about 1,200 cases a day on average, down a tenth on the number from a week ago.
Latest hospital admissions with the virus are also at 260, the lowest level since June last year, while about 11 deaths involving Covid are being recorded every day on average.
Which cities have re-instated and dropped mask mandates?
A federal judge in Florida struck down the mask mandate for public transport on Monday, saying the CDC had ‘exceeded’ its authority.
But several cities in the country are still requiring the coverings to be worn. They are listed below.
Los Angeles: From today, the Californian city has re-instated face masks on its public transport. Health officials there say they are following CDC guidance.
New York: Masks are still required on public transport in the city despite the federal order striking down the ban. Some public buildings also still require the coverings.
Philadelphia: The city of 1.5-million dropped its mask mandate for indoor public spaces just four days after re-imposing it. Authorities said they were able to do this because of falling hospitalizations and ‘flat’ cases.
San Francisco: Masks were dropped on its public transport on Thursday, three days after the federal judge struck down the rule.
Boston: This city dropped its mask mandate on public transport on Tuesday, a day after the federal judge’s ruling. Health officials there are still urging residents to wear the masks.
Explaining the move, Ferrer said, reports the LA Times: ‘While many of us would like to be at a place where masking is no longer necessary, with substantial transmission and a more infectious variant, one of the easiest things we can do to prevent infection is to wear a well-fitting mask or respirator.
‘I think it’s important to note that the CDC did not change their requirements/recommendations, their guidance.
‘A judge, a federal judge with little experience in public health, actually determined that and questioned… whether CDC had the authority to issue that regulation.’
She said the latest health order was not meant to be a precursor to a wider imposition of face masks, and that it would be in place for up to 30 days.
Public transport systems had made face masks optional on Monday following the ruling in Florida, but today again announced they were mandatory.
The move is at odds with several other Democrat-led cities, which have dropped their face mask orders this week.
Announcing the end of Philadelphia’s mask mandate, a spokeswoman for mayor Jim Kenney said: ‘Due to decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts, the City will move to strongly recommending masks in indoor public spaces as opposed to a mask mandate.
‘Given the latest data, the Board of Health voted to rescind the mandate.’
In an un-apologetic press conference today, Philadelphia’s health officials insisted cases and hospitalizations in the city ‘had peaked’ and said they had ‘always’ intended to remove the mandate as soon as possible.
Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, its Health Commissioner, said: ‘We made an announcement on April 11 that this would go into force on the 18. What it looks like happened is that people did take heed immediately, there is no way we would have seen the decrease without that.’
She cited data from Philadelphia’s Department of Health which showed that daily hospitalizations have dropped by a tenth since Monday from 72 to 65 a day, to back the move. But this is still 70 per cent higher than the 46 admissions a day that were recorded when the mandate first came into force.
Bettigole said she had promised the Philadelphian people ‘if we didn’t see hospitalizations rising then we shouldn’t have a mandate and we need to rethink this, and that’s what we’re doing today.
‘We didn’t want to miss the chance top interrupt a serious wave. This is not a free for all take off your mask, this is a recommendation.’
She added that the city’s monitoring system — which triggered the re-imposition of masks — would now be dropped, with a new one to be thrashed out which focuses on hospitalizations.
Philadelphia announced its mandate on April 11, just over a month after it dropped the previous order, citing a surge in Covid cases and concerns how these would affect its more vulnerable communities.
Criticizing the mandate when it was first announced Dr Leana Wen, a health policy expert at the George Washington University in the District of Columbia who has previously supported mask mandates, warned that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly had Philadelphia ‘in the green’.
‘With readily available and effective vaccines, why aren’t we switching from case counts to the better metric of hospitalizations?’ she said.
Philadelphia has now dropped its indoor mask mandate just four days after bringing in the rule. Pictured above is a woman at a hairdressers in the city on April 18, as the coverings were re-imposed
Masks were required again in all public buildings, including inside train stations. Above are passengers queuing to catch an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, with most seen to be wearing face masks in line with the rule
Confusion has also been sparked in schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which ended their mask mandate this week just a day after imposing it.
This Wednesday it made masks mandatory for pupils and staff in ‘all buildings’, but the following day it said schools could return to making the coverings optional if they deemed the risk from Covid transmission to be low.
Almost 100 pupils who attended a prom in San Francisco have also tested positive for Covid, ABC7 reported.
More than 600 students from the San Mateo High School had piled in to the Asian Arts Museum to celebrate their prom on April 9. But around a week later some 90 of the attendees tested positive for Covid.
Parker del Balso, one of the students who caught the virus, said he was ‘not very sick’ and only ‘suffered a sore throat for a couple of days, like two, and then congestion.
New Yorkers yesterday reported confusion and frustration over the city’s choice to leave its public transport mask orders in place despite a federal court axing them on Monday.
Kate Alexander, a Queens resident who regularly uses the subway, told DailyMail.com that she initially accepted masks but that now people must be able to choose for themselves.
‘Initially I was fine with having to wear a mask on the subway and in the airport but I think it’s time to give people the choice, especially because the mandates aren’t consistent,’ she said.
‘I don’t have to wear a mask in the Uber to JFK, but I have to wear one in the airport and I can take it off again as soon as I get on the plane. No consistency.’
Cedric Alam, a Newark resident who travels to Manhattan every other day, said: ‘I think right now, is a good time to give people the choice about how they may want to protect themselves.
‘If people think they should wear a mask, then they should go right ahead and wear one, while people who think they will be fine without one should have the freedom to travel bare faced.’
Americans seem to support the mask orders over all, though, at least according to a poll performed by the Morning Consult. It found that 59 percent of Americans, and 85 percent of Democrats – for which New York City is dominated by – support the federal mask mandate on public transportation.
It is unlikely that they return, though. While the Department of Justice plans to appeal the court’s decision, it is likely that the current orders lapse before the issue is settled.
WHAT THE END OF THE MASK MANDATE ACTUALLY MEANS
Several air carriers welcomed the move to drop mask mandates on Monday.
The airlines have issued the following statements about their policies.
‘Face masks have been like boarding passes for nearly two years – you couldn’t fly without one. But, as of today, masks are optional in airports and onboard aircraft, effective immediately.
‘While we are glad this means many of us get to see your smiling faces, we understand some might have mixed feelings. Please remember to be kind to one another and that wearing a mask while traveling is still an option.’
‘Face masks will no longer be required for our customers and team members at U.S. airports and on domestic flights.
‘Please note face masks may still be required based on local ordinances, or when traveling to/from certain international locations based on country requirements.’
Delta Air Lines
‘Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and onboard aircraft.’
‘We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus. Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other, and our customers, safe during the pandemic.’
‘Effective immediately, masks are no longer required at United on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s mask requirements) or at U.S. airports.
‘While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask – and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public – they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so, as the CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit.’
‘Mask wearing will now be optional on JetBlue. While no longer required, customers and crew members are welcome to continue wearing masks in our terminals and on board our aircraft.’
‘Masks are now optional on domestic flights, however, certain airports or countries may still require masks, so check the policy at your destination prior to departure and we’ll see you in the sky.’
‘Southwest employees and customers will be able to choose whether they would like to wear a mask, and we encourage individuals to make the best decision to support their personal wellbeing.’
TSA no longer requires face masks on public transportation and in transportation hubs.
Several major airports – including Denver, Seattle-Tacoma, Raleigh-Durham, Miami, Portland and all three DC area airports – have confirmed that they will no longer be enforcing mask requirements.
Most airports seem to be following the new ruling, however, San Francisco has said it ‘will continue to comply with the current TSA security directive on masks until we hear otherwise from TSA.’
Chicago’s O’Hare airport also said Tuesday it was keeping its mask mandates in place, citing an Illinois executive order requiring face coverings.
‘The safety and security of passengers and employees is the highest priority for the Chicago Department of Aviation. The CDA will continue to follow, observe and enforce all guidance by federal, state and local health and security authorities.’
It is unclear if NYC’s two airports are continuing to impose the rule, although travelers on social media have suggested that the rule is no longer in place.
Passengers should check the local requirements at their departure and arrival airports before traveling as requirements may vary.
The US has dropped mask mandates for all trains nationwide.
In wake of Monday’s ruling, national train line Amtrak relaxed mask restrictions effective immediately.
Amtrak said in a statement that ‘masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19. Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.’
Uber has made face masks optional for drivers and riders across the US.
The ride hailing app said in a statement Tuesday morning: ‘As of April 19, 2022, riders and drivers are not required to wear masks when using Uber.
‘However, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask if you have certain personal risk factors and/or high transmission levels in your area.
‘Remember: many people still feel safer wearing a mask because of personal or family health situations, so please be respectful of their preferences. And if you ever feel uncomfortable, you can always cancel the trip.’
Uber is the first ride share company to rescind its mask mandate.
Lyft also rescinded its mask policy, saying: ‘We know that everyone has different comfort levels, and anyone who wants to continue wearing a mask is encouraged to do so. As always, drivers or riders can decline to accept or cancel any ride they don’t wish to take.’
Megabus announced Tuesday that masks will no longer be required for drivers or passengers across the US.
‘The CDC still recommends wearing a mask while on public transit and we encourage customers to make the choice that makes sense for them.
‘Please be mindful that masks may still be required while traveling through the bus stations we serve. We are extremely thankful for everything our employees and customers did to keep each other safe over the course of the pandemic.
Nationwide bus carrier Greyhound has also rescinded its mask mandate, saying: ‘Face masks on all our buses and facilities is optional.
Greyhound will require masks on cross border trips until Canada and Mexico remove their requirements. They will also be required if mandated by local municipalities.
Local transit authorities in several major cities, including DC, have already lifted restrictions.
However, some cities, such as NYC, have opted to keep their mask mandates in place, following CDC guidance and local ordinances.
Travelers should check with their local bus system before boarding without a face covering.