May 12, 2022

TSA workers see 50% increase in COVID cases following cancellation of mask mandate, report says

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Just two weeks after a judge struck down the federal mask mandate for public transportation, the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases among Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers has soared sharply, according to a Forbes report.

On April 18, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizell ruled to strike down the federal mandate that requires travelers to wear masks on planes, trains, and buses, as well as at transportation hubs, such as airports, bus and subway stations, saying it was beyond the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and voids the mask warrant,” Mizelle wrote in a 59-page ruling.

Over the following weeks, the number of coronavirus cases among TSA employees rose 50%, from 359 cases on April 18 to 542 cases on May 2, a TSA spokesperson told Forbes.

Since the mandate was overturned, the TSA has not required travelers or employees to wear a mask inside airports, with the exception of some airports in counties with COVID-19 community levels. rated “high” by the CDC.

Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 23,468 TSA employees have contracted the coronavirus, and 36 workers have succumbed to the disease, according to the report.

ABOUT THE MASK MANDATE

Just a week before the mandate was overturned, White House officials announced that the CDC had extended the mask mandate for public transportation through Tuesday, May 3, as health experts continue to assess the recent increase in coronavirus cases associated with the BA.2 omicron subvariant.

“In order to assess the potential impact of increased cases on serious illness, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC order will remain in place for the time being,” it said. the agency said at the time.

After the warrant was overturned, the CDC asked the Department of Justice to appeal the decision, stating that “the CDC continues to assess that at this time an order requiring masking in the transportation corridor interior remains necessary for public health. The CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine if such an order remains necessary. The CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within the CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.

Anthony Coley, a Justice Department spokesman, said the appeal was filed “in light of today’s assessment by the CDC that an order requiring masking in the transportation corridor remains necessary to protect public health”.

On Tuesday, the CDC reaffirmed its recommendation that anyone over the age of 2 wear a properly fitted mask on public transportation or in transportation hubs like airports.

The agency also encouraged workers to support mask-wearing by passengers and employees.

“The CDC continues to recommend that all people – passengers and workers, properly wear a properly fitted mask or respirator on indoor public transit and transportation hubs to protect themselves and other travelers in these mixed-population environments. and high volume. said Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “We now have a range of tools we need to protect ourselves from the impact of COVID-19, including access to high-quality masks and respirators for everyone who needs them.”

The CDC said it made its recommendation based on currently available data and in light of virulent coronavirus variants that have triggered increases in new cases.

Walensky said it’s “important for all of us to not only protect ourselves, but also consider others at increased risk for severe COVID-19 and those who cannot yet be vaccinated.”

Although the federal mandate requiring the use of a mask on public transportation remains rescinded for the time being, New Yorkers are still required under state orders to wear a mask on buses and subways. MTA, the Staten Island Ferry and when traveling in e-hail vehicles like Uber and Lyf.

Most major airlines have already repealed their mask requirements on flights, although some airports, including the Port Authority‘s two New York airports, LaGuardia and JFK, still require travelers to wear a mask when flying. navigation in the facilities.