How people are responding to end of transit mask mandates

For the first time in two years, many airplane passengers are flying maskless. After a judge’s decision to strike down a federal mask mandate for trains, planes and buses, the Justice Department said it would only appeal the ruling if the CDC deems the mandate necessary for public health, leaving businesses, local leaders and passengers to make decisions in the meantime. John Yang reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For the first time in two years, many airline passengers and some staff are flying today without a mask. The change came quickly and unexpectedly after a judge's decision.

    John Yang has our report.

  • Man:

    And I just checked with the company, and the company's position is, Delta's position is, masks will be optional this evening for all crew and passengers as well.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • John Yang:

    In flight announcements yesterday met with jubilation…

  • Woman:

    And wave them in the air like you just don't care.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CHEERING)

  • John Yang:

    … after a federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate on all public transportation. Within hours, all major U.S. airlines American, Delta, Southwest, and United, stopped requiring masks on their flights.

    On a trip to New Hampshire today, President Biden was asked about the ruling.

  • Question:

    Mr. President, should people continue to wear masks on planes?

  • President Joe Biden:

    That's up to them.

  • Question:

    Are you going to appeal the ruling — or the ruling that the judge made striking down the mandate?

  • President Joe Biden:

    I haven't spoken to the CDC yet.

  • John Yang:

    At Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, some expressed concern.

  • Teresa Therence, Washington, D.C., Resident:

    To me, it was worrisome, because there is a constant surge. It has encouraged me to approach safety even more so, since others aren't, just wear a mask, wear two, if I have to, like — and always sanitize.

    Yes, it's really, really got me alarmed and wanting to distance myself even more from people.

  • John Yang:

    Others welcomed the news.

  • Kevin Lovemo, Louisiana Resident:

    Really excited. Who wants to wear a mask? I don't really care for the mask mandate to begin with, personally. But I don't think it does any good, as long as you cough in your arm and do — wash your hands. So, I don't really believe the mask mandate did any good.

  • Laura Wideman, Florida Resident:

    Occasionally, I might want to put a mask on when I'm flying anyway. But it's also nice to know that I don't have to be required to wear a mask. It's my choice.

    And, for me, I think it's a lot about having the freedom to choose to mask or not mask, depending on what my situation is.

  • John Yang:

    Amtrak also dropped its requirement. But some regional transit systems, such New York's subway system, have chosen to keep it.

  • William Giegerich, New York City Resident:

    I just feel like mask mandates are coming down too quickly. People at my school are getting it like every day.

  • John Ramos, New York City Resident:

    It doesn't matter to me what they do in Florida. I'm still going to be wearing my mask.

  • Markel, New York City Resident:

    I don't got no mask right now. So that's cool with me. Better for me. I didn't even know there was one.

  • John Yang:

    Today, ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft said masks would be optional for riders and drivers, but that local regulations could still require them.

    For now, the result is a patchwork of rules on public transportation. The Biden administration has been grappling with how long to keep the mask requirement on planes, trains and taxis. Just a week ago, the CDC extended its rule to May 3 while officials assessed COVID trends.

    But yesterday's court ruling short-circuited that. Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said that when a passenger is denied an airline seat for not wearing a mask, their freedom of movement is curtailed in a way similar to detention and quarantine. She ordered a nationwide injunction, despite noting that she shares some skepticism about the practice.

    But she said one was necessary to grant compete relief in the case. Mizelle is a Trump nominee who was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate along strict party lines after the 2020 election. All this comes as U.S. infections have climbed more than 40 percent in the last two weeks, although hospitalizations and deaths have fallen.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And this update.

    The U.S. Department of Justice announced late today that it is considering appealing the federal judge's ruling, depending on the view of the CDC.

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