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Masks and theft: everything you need to know about the new US rules

(CNN) — In the United States, air passengers have removed their Covid-19 face coverings after a federal judge ruled that the government’s mask mandate on commercial planes was illegal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously insisted that the mask rules remain in place until May 3, but the Florida judge overturned that directive on Monday.

Airlines have already started to relax mask requirements, but not without some initial confusion. The questions flow.

So what are the new rules? Do they apply to international travel? Will the Department of Justice appeal the judge’s decision? How safe is flying without a mask? Here are the answers to some of the key questions.

What are the new rules for flying with masks in the United States?

Most major airlines in the US have made mask-wearing optional following the latest court ruling, although some have said face masks may be required when flying or arriving at certain destinations .

Following the new ruling, the government’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it will not mandate mask-wearing on public transportation or hubs.

Airlines have applied their own mask rules in the past, before the mandate was enforced, but most have now waived the requirement.

Is the judge’s decision complete?

Airline passengers in the United States are no longer required to wear a mask.

Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram/Getty Images

The short answer: Not sure.

The removal of the warrant was a stark development after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle overturned the warrant. Biden administration officials were caught off guard.

The CDC was to assess whether the warrant was still needed through May 3, and spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement that any appeals would come after that date.

Until then, the mask order is not in effect.

Mask requirements for US travelers were initially enforced by major airlines in the spring of 2020, before being imposed by the federal government in February 2021 for airplanes and other public transportation.

Which airlines have made masks optional?

Major US airlines announced on Monday that masks are now optional on their planes.

Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air, Hawaiian airlines and Sun Country Airlines have all stopped requiring face coverings.

This means that passengers and crew members of these carriers are no longer required to wear them on domestic flights at this time.

Can I still wear a mask if I wish?

Yes. Passengers can still wear a mask on board planes if they prefer to do so. However, wearing a mask is not required under federal law while the decision is being considered.

I am medically vulnerable. What should I do?

According to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, a “high-quality mask” such as an N95, KN95 or KF94 remains a huge important tool when it comes to reducing the risk of infection, especially in indoor public spaces.

“My recommendation is that immunocompromised people should mask up when indoors around those with unknown vaccination status,” Wen told CNN Health last month.

“Others should decide based on how much they want to avoid contracting Covid-19 and how important it is to be unmasked.”

Do I still have to wear a mask for international flights?

This will likely depend on the airline and/or destination you are flying to.

United Airlines released a statement on Monday saying masks would not be required on “certain international flights,” while American Airlines noted that masks may be required “from certain international locations depending on country requirements.”

Although not required on board, they may still be required when disembarking at international destinations. It is advisable to check with the airlines before flying.

What is the medical opinion on wearing a mask?

Public health experts recommend people wear masks that provide the most effective level of protection, especially N95s.

According to Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, unlike face coverings, N95s are able to filter out large droplets, as well as potentially virus-laden smaller aerosols or particles suspended in the air. air if infected people are present.

NIOSH-approved N95 respirators can filter up to 95% of airborne particles if fitted correctly.

Although KN95 and KF94 are also considered to offer a high level of protection, the main difference is that the United States tests, certifies and regulates N95 public health experts.

Although Chinese manufacturers test KN95s, they do not meet US regulatory standards and the country’s government does not have a regulatory body validating them, according to Aaron Collins, professor emeritus at the university’s faculty of engineering. Mercer and a mechanical engineer with a background in aerosol science. Meanwhile, KF94s are regulated by Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

“If they’re made to standard and certified by the appropriate boards in their country, like NIOSH here, they’re all basically doing the same thing,” Bromage says.

What is the risk of catching Covid on the plane?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has previously said the risk of contracting Covid-19 on board a flight is very low, even taking into account the Omicron variant, which “appears to be more transmissible than other variations in all environments”.

However, it should be noted that forced mask-wearing was seen as one of the contributing factors to this, along with the air quality on board modern jet aircraft, which is regularly refreshed, and the fact that passengers are all facing the same direction. on an airplane.

Last month, Linsey Marr, an expert in aerosol infectious disease transmission, told CNN via email that dropping the mask mandate would make sense “as long as cases remain low.”

“There’s less chance of an infected person being on the plane. And we know planes have great ventilation and filtration, which helps reduce the risk of transmission on a plane,” said Marr, who is a professor at Virginia Tech. .

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta says that due to the rapid air exchange, most airplanes are safe environments, but the real risk of air travel is when passing through terminals and other enclosed spaces.

CNN has contacted IATA to determine whether it still considers the risk to be “very low” if those on board do not wear face masks.

CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe, Travis Caldwell, Marnie Hunter, Maegan Vazquez, Kevin Liptak and Tierney Sneed also contributed to this story.

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