MINNEAPOLIS — *Editor's note: The above video first aired on March 11, 2022.
CEOs from several major airlines are urging President Joe Biden to lift the federal mask mandate on flights and inside airports.
In a letter signed by 11 different airline CEOs, the request is being made as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have dropped significantly across the U.S., according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The face mask requirement was recently extended through April 18, 2022, but top officials with numerous airlines have stated in their letter that they hope the Biden administration will lift the mandate before then.
"The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, as demonstrated by the recently released CDC framework indicating that 99 percent of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors," the letter states. "Several studies completed before we had the added layer of widespread availability of vaccines, including one from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and another from the U.S. Department of Defense, have concluded that an airplane cabin is one of the safest indoor environments due to the combination of highly filtered air and constant air flow coupled with the downward direction of the air."
The letter goes on to reference the U.K., which lifted its airline mask mandate earlier this month.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., tweeted last week that 99% of the U.S. population is in a location with low or medium COVID-19 community level, meaning masks were no longer required indoors, per CDC masking guidelines.
The Transportation Security Administration said the extension will give the CDC an extra month to develop new, more targeted policies that will consider the number of cases of COVID-19 nationally and in local communities, and the risk of new variants.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this month that deciding on the right policy for travel was more complicated than setting standards for local communities to follow.
“If you're moving from one zone to another and picking people up ... it's a little bit different, and that requires some consultation, which is what (CDC officials) are going to endeavor to do between now and April 18,” Psaki said.
The federal mask mandate was imposed in January 2021 and has since been extended several times.
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