(CNN) – Masks are no longer mandatory on airplanes and other modes of public transportation in the United States following a court ruling that marks a pivotal moment in America’s battle against the coronavirus.
A federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate on Monday after it was extended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through May 3.
The US Surgeon General said last week that part of the reason for the extension was rising Covid-19 cases and the closed settings created by travel.
The Justice Department said Tuesday it will appeal the ruling — but only if the CDC determines that the mandate is still necessary to protect public health.
Dr. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told CNN that “mask-wearing on interstate transportation is still an important intervention that’s worth continuing.”
“The biggest concern is, we want people to be safe and we’re concerned that we’re not through the pandemic yet as much as people want to be, and (Covid-19) rates are starting to tick back up.”
Although the White House confirmed the mandate is no longer in place while the ruling is being reviewed, it said it still recommends people cover their mouths and noses when traveling.
But if experience from other countries is anything to go by, shifting from “compulsory” to “recommended” will likely mean most people won’t bother. Videos showing air passengers joyfully removing their masks mid-flight when the decision was announced suggest the same.
England lifted mask requirements in January, part of its new “living with Covid” strategy. While face coverings remain strongly recommended in many places, including the London Underground system, anecdotal evidence shows the majority of people no longer wear them.
In France, masks are no longer required indoors except on public transport. Judging by the situation in Paris, the divide is clear: Most people still wear masks where they are mandatory but take them off in places that only recommend them.
Still, some countries continue to impose strict mask rules.
In Italy, high grade FFP2 masks must still be worn indoors, and anyone not wearing one can be fined up to $450. Individual cities and regions can also bring in outdoor mask mandates in crowded places.
In Hong Kong, masks remain mandatory in all public places, including when exercising outside.
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