Mask mandate lifted at New Orleans airport, RTA after judge voids federal COVID rule
New Orleans’ airport and public transit system lifted their mask mandates Tuesday, after a federal judge voided a nationwide mask mandate for public transportation on Monday.
A statement issued Tuesday morning said face masks are now optional at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, effective immediately.
As a result of the recent court ruling and withdrawal of the TSA mask mandate, face masks are now optional at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, effectively immediately. Employees, passengers and guests at MSY are no longer required to wear face masks.— New Orleans Airport (@flyneworleans) April 19, 2022
The New Orleans airport’s announcement comes after the Transportation Security Administration said masks would no longer be mandatory in transportation hubs, which signaled to airports across the country to drop the mandate as well.
Many of the nation’s largest airlines have lifted masking requirements on domestic flights. Here’s a list of the airlines and their announcements:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
New Orleans Regional Transit Authority announced that its transit operators will no longer enforce its mask mandate on the city’s buses, streetcars, ferries, paratransit vehicles and at RTA facilities.
“The RTA, in concurrence with the CDC, continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time,” RTA spokesperson Arian Randolph said in a written statement.
The public transportation mask mandate had been set to expire April 18. But last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would extend the mask mandate on transit through May 3 in order to monitor the impacts of the BA.2 subvariant of omicron, which public health experts say is highly contagious and is currently on the rise in the northeast U.S.
Then, on Monday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the travel mask mandate, writing in a 59-page ruling that the CDC had exceeded its authority and violated rulemaking procedures. The judge, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, was appointed by former President Donald Trump.
The Biden administration’s response to the decision remains under review.
"This is obviously a disappointing decision," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday, according to NPR. "The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit."
Public health experts have widely criticized the move, noting that removing the mandate could have a negative impact on COVID-19 cases. Some noted that proper ventilation is difficult to enforce on public transit, particularly on planes, where large crowds of people are huddled together for long periods of time.
In New Orleans, RTA operators were hit particularly hard by the virus in the spring of 2020, when they continued interfacing with residents as the city became an early epicenter for COVID-19.