A federal judge’s decision ended — at least for now — the requirement that people wear masks on planes and public transportand there is a lot of confusion about the new world of post-mask travel.
Despite these moves south of the border, Canada is not prepared to follow suit. In a statement to CityNews, the federal government says there is no change to policy here, adding that the top priority is keeping Canadians safe.
A single Florida judge’s ruling overturned 14 months of government insistence that travelers wear masks to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Within hours, all major US airlines and many airports announced – sometimes to passengers in the middle of the flights — that travelers could remove their masks.
Here’s what you need to know about the world of post-masking.
What does it mean?
In the field, requirements may vary from place to place. Toronto’s transit system may keep its mask requirement in place. It depends on the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore.
Moore said the masking mandate for transit and some other sectors could be extended after April 27.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assured that mask mandates for air travel will remain firmly in place, even if major airlines south of the border drop the requirement for passengers and crew. Trudeau and the Canadian Minister of Transport reiterated that masks are still mandatory on all flights arriving in or departing from Canada.
Uber and Lyft said they would not require passengers wear masks. Some local taxi companies, like Beck Taxi in Toronto, said a mask mandate would remain.
Is it safe to travel now?
Air filtration on planes is generally excellent, but boarding and exiting a plane can bring people closer together in poorly ventilated spaces, said Dr. Babak Javid, a medical researcher at the University of California. in San Francisco. The risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 through other modes of transportation varies.
Dr David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said planes can carry the virus from place to place, but we should focus more on large indoor events. such as concerts and sporting events – even big weddings – where people get together and talk, shout and sing.
International travelers must wear a mask for 14 days after returning to Canada
Vaccinated travelers to Canada no longer need to be tested for COVID-19
In Canada, new travel rules came into force on April 1 eased restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers, make it easier to jump on a plane.
Although fully vaccinated travelers do not have to present a negative COVID-19 test upon return to Canada, there are still a few rules they must follow. Every traveler must still complete their ArriveCan form within 72 hours, which details a quarantine plan and allows them to upload their proof of vaccination.
Do I still have to mask myself on planes?
The CDC continues to recommend that people mask up indoors when traveling.
Masks still offer some protection against COVID-19, but they work best if others wear them as well.
High-quality masks work in two ways, said Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington who studies emerging infectious diseases: they protect the wearer by limiting the number of infectious particles inhaled, and they protect others by limiting exhaled particles if the wearer is infected.
Will wearing a mask make me stand out?
No. This is what makes you most comfortable in flight.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, who favored scrapping the rule, said before the judge’s order he expected to see a “surprising number” of passengers and airline employees airlines wear masks even after warrant expiry.
“I can choose to wear a mask from time to time,” he said.
Still, tension among passengers over mask-wearing could continue, said Eileen Ogintz, who writes about family travel and advises parents of young children who cannot be vaccinated to continue masking.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you got dirty looks or nasty comments” from unmasked passengers, she said. “It’s a conversation to have with the kids ahead of time – why you wear masks.”
What is the impact of lifting masks on international flights?
When traveling between two countries, expect your airline to follow the rules of the more restrictive country. Passengers traveling to Canada, for example, will be required to don masks at some point during the flight, but it’s unclear exactly whether that means when crossing into Canadian airspace or at some other time.
Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Atmosphere Research Group, said there may be international airlines that will still require masks even on flights to and from the United States.
Can I get a refund if I don’t want to fly?
Probably not, unless the airline cancels your flight.
However, if you call the airline and explain why you’re not comfortable traveling without a mandatory mask, most will let you change flights for free or give you a credit you can use later, Scott Keyes said. , founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. travel website.
Is the time right?
Apparently, for the United States, it is. Not for Canada, yet.
New reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States are relatively low compared to the past two years, but have been increasing lately and are likely undercounted. Hospitalizations are almost stable and deaths continue to decline.
Dowdy, the Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, said it was reasonable to consider scrapping the mask mandate on travel given the lull in serious illness.
“It would be nice to do it when the cases are going down rather than up,” he said, “and the decision is being made by people trained in public health rather than law and politics.” .
As for what happens if cases or hospitalizations increase, that might not be enough to revive the mask rule. It could disrupt the trip in other ways. American airlines canceled thousands of flights late December and early January, largely because so many employees were sick with omicron.
“Imagine what would happen if a critical mass of Southwest Airlines pilots got sick and couldn’t fly this summer?” said Harteveldt, the travel analyst. “
“Whether it’s Southwest or any airline, it could be very disruptive to summer travel.”