Michigan travelers, health experts weigh in on TSA mask mandate extension

Mask requirements were extended through April 18
Posted at 11:07 AM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 21:48:01-04

ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Mask requirements for airplane travel and public transportation were extended by federal officials last Thursday.

Mask mandates were set to expire March 18, but the Transportation Security Administration extended the requirements through April 18 as it works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise policy framework.

At Detroit Metropolitan Airport, some travelers say it’s time to drop the mandate.

Traveler Jose Reyes says he’s tired of wearing masks on flights.

“This is very tiresome,” Reyes said. “We are finally getting back to normal. So, let’s get back to normal.”

COVID-19 cases are declining, but not fast enough for TSA. TSA says it’s working with the CDC and other agencies to revise the mask wearing policy.

In a statement TSA said:

“This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.”

Whether you’re at a bus transit station, inside a train station or at the airport, you must continue to wear your mask until the mandate is lifted.

“I would prefer that we can leave the mask behind us, especially for vaccinated travelers,” traveler Rich Heide said.

At the moment, travelers like 4-year-old Madeline can’t get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I like my mask on,” Madeline said.

Her mother says even if TSA drops the mandate, nothing will change for her family.

“We will probably still wear our mask,” the mother said.

Dr. Christopher Carpenter with Beaumont Health in Royal Oak says if the mandate ends, people need to look at their comfort levels when deciding on whether to wear a mask during travel.

“It’s that balance between doing the freedoms that we want and what’s the safest path for us for those,” Carpenter, who chairs the internal medicine department, said.

But he believes the one-month extension is a step in the right direction.

“It’s an intermediary step that hopefully if the numbers go in the right direction, we will be comfortable that it is reasonably safe to fly without a mask. But we are not there yet,” Carpenter said.

For passengers concerned about flying where masking is optional, Carpenter says air circulates well on airplanes.

“Exposures on planes are different than if we were at a restaurant with people who had COVID and the air was poorly circulated,” he said. “The air on a plane circulates well and goes through filters.”

If you have plans to travel soon Carpenter says it’s always important to monitor COVID-19 cases.

“It’s the balance of looking at the balance of data in the community. Not just the community you are at, but the community you are traveling to,” Carpenter said.

Zachary Hart is in town visiting from Indiana. He takes Amtrak several times a year to visit his grandchildren in Dearborn.

He says mandate or not, he’s keeping his mask on while he’s on the train.

“COVID-19, you can’t see it ... a pandemic is out here. We don’t know how you got it until you start getting sick,” Hart said.

And he’s not going to risk getting sick.

“I’m still going to keep mine cause until we know that (it’s safe), because people still dying from this,” Hart said.

For more on TSA's coronavirus travel policies, visit tsa.gov/coronavirus.