Here’s what you need to know about the new US rules for wearing masks on flights

Some airlines no longer require masks: Watch the reaction from passengers 0:50 (CNN) — Air passengers in the United States are leaving behind the masks against covid-19 after a federal judge ruled that the mask mandate on commercial aircraft decreed by the government was illegal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had insisted that the rules on the use of masks remain in force until May 3, but the Florida judge overturned that order on Monday. . Airlines have already started relaxing mask requirements, but not without some initial confusion. What are the new rules? Do they apply to international travel? How safe is it to fly without a mask? Here are the answers to some of the key questions. What are the new rules for flying in the United States regarding masks? Most major US airlines have made wearing masks optional following the latest court ruling, though some have said face coverings may be required when flying to or upon arrival at certain destinations. Following the new resolution, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it will not enforce the use of masks on public transportation or at distribution centers. Airlines have enforced their own mask-wearing rules in the past, before the mandate came into force, but most have since scrapped the requirement. Which airlines consider the use of masks optional? Major US airlines announced Monday that wearing masks on their planes is now optional.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air, Hawaiian Airlines and Sun Country Airlines have stopped requiring the use of masks. This means that both passengers and crew members of these companies are no longer required to carry one on domestic flights at this time. Will the rules change again? Air passengers in the United States are no longer required to wear a mask.
Credit: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram/Getty Images It’s uncertain. The removal of the mandate was an abrupt development after US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck it down. A Biden administration official later confirmed that the order would not be in effect while the ruling is reviewed. It is not immediately known how long that review will last or what the final resolution will be. “Agencies are reviewing the decision and evaluating possible next steps,” the Biden administration official said Monday night. “Meanwhile, today’s court decision means that the CDC’s public transportation mask order is not in effect at this time.” Mask requirements for US travelers were initially enforced on major airlines in the spring of 2020, before becoming a federal mandate in February 2021 for airplanes and other methods of public transportation. Can I still wear a mask if I want to? Yes. Passengers can continue to wear masks on board the aircraft if they prefer. However, the use of the mask is not mandatory under federal law while the sentence is reviewed. I am medically vulnerable, what should I do? According to Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst, emergency room physician, and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, a “high-quality mask,” such as an N95, KN95 or KF94, remains an enormously important tool in reducing the risk of infection, especially in closed public spaces. “My recommendation is that immunocompromised people wear a mask when indoors around people of unknown vaccination status,” Wen told CNN Health last month. “Others have to decide based on how much they want to avoid getting COVID-19 and how important it is not to wear a mask.” Dr. Gupta reacts to the abrupt end of wearing masks on public transport 2:03 Should I still wear a mask on international flights? This is likely to depend on the airline, and/or the destination you are traveling to. United Airlines released a statement Monday stating that masks would not be required on “certain international flights,” while American Airlines has noted that masks may be required “from certain international locations based on country requirements.” “. Although not required on board, they may be required when disembarking at international destinations. It is advisable to consult the airlines before flying. What is the medical advice on the use of masks? Public health experts recommend the use of masks that offer the most effective level of protection, especially the N95. According to Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, unlike cloth masks, N95s are capable of filtering out large droplets as well as potentially virus-laden aerosols or smaller particles in the air if there are any. infected people nearby. N95 filtering respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) can filter up to 95% of airborne particles if properly fitted. Although KN95 and KF94 masks are also considered to provide a high level of protection, the main difference is that US N95 masks are tested, certified and regulated by public health experts. Although KN95s are tested by manufacturers in China, they don’t meet U.S. regulatory standards and the U.S. government doesn’t have a regulatory body to validate them, according to Aaron Collins, a professor emeritus in the Mercer University College of Engineering and mechanical engineer with a background in aerosol science. For its part, KF94 is regulated by the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. “If they’re built to the standard and certified by the appropriate agencies in your country, like NIOSH here, they all basically work the same,” says Bromage. What is the risk of contracting covid-19 on a flight? The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has previously stated that the risk of contracting covid-19 on board a flight is very low, even taking into account the omicron variant, which “appears to be more transmissible than other variants in all environments”. However, it should be noted that the mandatory use of masks was considered to be one of the contributing factors, along with the quality of the air on board modern aircraft, which is regularly renewed, and the fact that passengers are all facing the same direction in an airplane. Last month, Linsey Marr, an expert on the transmission of infectious diseases through aerosols, told CNN by email that removing the mask mandate would make sense “as long as cases remain low.” “There’s less chance someone infected will be on the plane. And we know that planes have excellent ventilation and filtration, which helps reduce the risk of transmission on a plane,” said Marr, who is a professor at Virginia Tech. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta says that because of the rapid exchange of air, most planes are safe environments, but the real risk of air travel comes when passing through terminals and other enclosed spaces. CNN contacted IATA to determine if it still considers the risk “very low” if passengers don’t wear masks. — CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe, Travis Caldwell and Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.