Midlands travelers at CAE, infectious disease expert react to federal mask mandate extension

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – The transport mask’s federal mandate, which was originally set to expire on Monday, is now extended an additional 15 days to May 3. This includes all public transport: airports, planes, trains and buses.

At Columbia Metropolitan Airport, reaction from travelers has been mixed.

“I’m comfortable wearing the mask,” said Donna Delahaye, who was in Colombia to see her Fort Jackson graduate nephew. “I feel safer with the mask on.”

Some said they were too masked.

“I hate wearing this stuff,” said Sumter native Tyler Oswald. “It hurts my ears.”

Others are indifferent.

And a few people said they would likely continue to mask up on planes even if the warrant was lifted.

“I’m so used to it now that I think I would wear it,” said Maria Teresa Jarquin.

Jarquin was visiting family in the Midlands, but lives in New York, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

She welcomes the extension.

“It was put in place for a reason and the reason is to save lives,” Jarquin said. “I wear my mask everywhere.”

According to the CDC, the warrant was extended due to the rise of the Omicron subvariant known as BA.2, which now accounts for more than 85% of cases nationwide.

Regarding the masking, Oswald said, “There has to be an end in sight somewhere.”

Dr. Helmut Albrecht, infectious disease specialist at Prisma Health, said that by extending the mask requirement for travelers, the federal government has chosen what is safe over what is easier and more popular at this point. of the pandemic.

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“The fact that they’ve only extended it for a few weeks shows that they’re struggling with that as well, isn’t it,” he said.

While cases are down in South Carolina, spikes in New York, Washington DC and parts of Europe indicate there could be another spike in cases soon, likely after spring break.

“We are tired of the virus protection measures we can take, but the rise in the northeast shows that the virus is not done with us yet,” he said. “So this short extension will allow federal authorities to determine whether this increase in numbers is also translating into increased hospitalizations and deaths.”

Albrecht said it was important to stay “vigilant” in the fight against COVID-19.

“It’s definitely a time when we can take advantage of lower numbers and therefore lower risks,” he said. “There could be a new variant at any time that could escape any immunity rendered by vaccines or by previous infection and almost require a reboot.”

The extension comes as CAE said passenger traffic through its airport increased by more than 80% in the first months of this year compared to the same period last year.

“Passenger traffic has been consistently high during the first quarter of 2022 and we expect this steady month-over-month increase to continue as we head into the busy spring and summer months,” said Mike Gula, CEO of CAE. “We are seeing a return in large numbers of long-awaited personal travel and business travel – which is welcome. We have not returned to pre-pandemic numbers due to the air travel shutdown that COVID- 19 has brought to airports around the world, but we have far exceeded early projections.

Opposition to the mandate includes some travel and hospitality groups, including Airlines for America and the US Travel Association.

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