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Senators on both sides of the aisle ready to DITCH MASKS amid push to end mandate public transport


Republican senators are growing frustrated at the continued enforcement of the federal mask mandate for travelers, especially on public transportation including buses, planes and trains.

The states of New York and California both lifted the majority of their restrictions earlier this week as 70 percent of the states’ residents have now received their first dose of of their COVID-19 vaccination shots.

The removal of restrictions allows people to go mask-free in most areas including offices, shops and restaurants but the requirements for masks to be won while traveling still remains. The mandate currently lasts until September 13. 

Senator Rick Scott, R-Florida put forward an amendment to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday in the hope the requirements of mask wearing might be removed and the mandate ended, but he was promptly rebuffed

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi backed Scott's amendment. 'I think we should express the sense of this committee that what is being foisted on us now in the name of science is hogwash,' he said

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi backed Scott’s amendment. ‘I think we should express the sense of this committee that what is being foisted on us now in the name of science is hogwash,’ he said

Passengers on buses, trains and airplanes are required to mask up to curb the spread of COVID

Passengers on buses, trains and airplanes are required to mask up to curb the spread of COVID

Senator Rick Scott, R-Florida put forward an amendment to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday in the hope the requirements might be removed and the mandate ended, but he was promptly rebuffed.

Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi backed Scott’s amendment. ‘I think we should express the sense of this committee that what is being foisted on us now in the name of science is hogwash,’ he said. 

However, there was support from across the aisle with Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, acknowledging that he too, was feeling impatient.   

Schatz suggested the Senate introduce a ‘sense of the Senate’ to encourage the Biden administration to reconsider its rules and acknowledging while the agencies are experts on issues, they ‘are not infallible.’

There was support from across the aisle with Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, acknowledging that he too, was feeling impatient

There was support from across the aisle with Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, acknowledging that he too, was feeling impatient

Masks are still required to be worn on the New York City subway system

Masks are still required to be worn on the New York City subway system 

‘Sometimes they move slowly, sometimes they’re a little too precautionary,’ Schatz said.   

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg why travelers on airplanes were required to wear masks but those gathered in crowded airport bars were not.

Buttigieg said the mandate remains in place because of some unique circumstances, such as the fact that planes feature ‘a number of people from different places passing through the same small place,’ as well as the presence of children on airplanes. 

‘I share the impatience to be able to return to where they’re not required,’ Buttigieg said. He also said the process of removing the mandate is an interagency process guided by public health experts.

‘This is something we need to continue to revisit, and while I haven’t seen … a specific rubric that says if we hit this benchmark we can say goodbye to the masks, which we’re all eager to do, I do think it’s of course true that the sooner we get as many people as possible vaccinated, the sooner we can get there.’ 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the mandate remains in place because of some unique circumstances, such as the fact that planes feature 'a number of people from different places passing through the same small place,' as well as the presence of children on airplanes

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the mandate remains in place because of some unique circumstances, such as the fact that planes feature ‘a number of people from different places passing through the same small place,’ as well as the presence of children on airplanes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention required travelers to wear masks in order to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 both while traveling and while in airports and railway stations from January.  

The CDC issued special guidelines for vaccinated people in areas such as transit hubs because there are usually a large number of people interacting with each other in an enclosed environment.

‘While those who are fully vaccinated may resume many activities without wearing a mask, the travel environment presents a unique set of circumstances based on the number and close interaction of travelers (both vaccinated and unvaccinated),’ the CDC said in a statement of the new guidance. 

The mask mandate for travelers is expected to to remain in place until September 13

The mask mandate for travelers is expected to to remain in place until September 13

 It is expected that transit systems will be among the last places that will return to normal post-pandemic. 

A study by Chinese researchers in October found that public transit could be a source of COVID outbreaks if people are not socially distanced or wearing masks.  

Transmission of COVID in outdoor areas is rare, and some even estimate that as low as 0.1 percent of COVID transmissions in the U.S. have occurred outdoors.  

In mid-May, the guidance from the CDC was updated and advised fully vaccinated people that they could resume activities without need to wear a mask, while recommending those who had not been vaccinated still continue to wear them. 

The requirements for travel have remained unchanged although fully vaccinated Americans are safe to no longer wear masks in outdoor sections of public transit and other major travel hub areas. 

Last month, the CDC announced that people vaccinated against COVID-19 could unmask outdoors and in most indoor settings due to the efficacy of vaccines and in the hopes of convincing unvaccinated Americans to get the shot so they could enjoy the same freedoms.  

The latest CDC data shows 53% of all Americans – 65% of those 18 and older – have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  

Masked travelers walk through JFK Airport ahead of Memorial day weekend last month (file)

Masked travelers walk through JFK Airport ahead of Memorial day weekend last month (file)



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