You’re not alone if you’re feeling peeved about how gung ho some people are for flinging away their masks on public transit. Unfortunately, you’re not likely to be alone on public transit either, so it might not be much of a salve for your nerves.
A new quickfire poll put out by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 56% of U.S. respondents said there should be requirements to wear a mask on planes, trains or other public transport. Less than a quarter of respondents prefer no requirements, while another 20% don’t give a damn either way.
The poll was conducted with 1,085 adults across a range of political and age groups from April 14 through April 18, ending just as Florida federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle announced Monday that she considered the CDC’s mask rules unlawful. The judge wrote in her ruling that the CDC categorized masks as “sanitation” when “wearing a mask cleans nothing.” She also cited two individuals who claimed wearing masks on planes worsened their anxiety.
But the two individuals cited in that ruling seem to be in a minority, at least according to the AP-NORC poll. Older respondents aged 60+ were also more in favor of mask requirements versus younger people. Poll results also show that those in favor of masks on public transport are much more likely to be Democrats or Independents at 80% and 45%, respectively. Similarly, only slightly fewer Dems showed support for masking requirements for public events like concerts and movies, as well as for seated dining and stores.
Despite the political overtone of Monday’s ruling and the ongoing debate over mask requirements, the federal government seems to want to let things lie, at least for now. The Justice Department said it would not seek an appeal unless the CDC “determined a mandate was necessary.” Poll results showing overall concern about Covid infection continue to decline, reaching around 20% of respondents in this month’s poll. This is also despite new daily cases of Covid increasing over the last few weeks.
The day the Florida judge handed down her odd, semantics-based argument for dropping the CDC’s mask requirement for public transports, videos and tweets circulated online showing travelers cheering and taking off their masks. One video, taken directly before takeoff as the news spread, showed off the dulcet pipes of an airline steward walking down the main aisle carrying a plastic trash bag singing “throw away your mask.”
Of course, flight attendants had more reason than most to celebrate no longer having to enforce mask rules, but it seems the public companies are more excited to not have to bother anymore with thoughts of public health. Uber and Lyft both announced they were ending mask requirements for drivers and passengers. Delta was slammed for proposing that Covid had suddenly transformed from a pandemic-level virus into “an ordinary seasonal virus.”
There are still some examples of public transport where masks are still required, such as on the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago public transit systems.
Anyone can still choose to wear a mask, though masks work best when they’re on infected people rather than just the people trying not to get sick. The New York Times recently published a story about how well masks protect the wearer when no one else is wearing one (Answer: “Yes…kind of…but…”), and well-fitted KN95s and N95s work best in that regard.