NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Some relieved, others express concern as airport mask mandate lifted

Travel Mask Mandate
Posted at 6:24 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 06:26:17-04

SARASOTA, Fla. — Janviere Carlin has been a pilot for more than 25 years. She currently works for JetBlue but doesn’t represent the company on any of her own opinions, as a pilot.

"We all felt the effects that wearing the masks had on us," Carlin said. "The fatigue, the headaches, the irritation of the skin."

But now the mask mandate for airports and airlines has been overturned by a federal judge.

A federal judge in Florida voided the national mask mandate covering airplanes and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of U.S. health officials Monday. Tampa International Airport and St. Pete-Clearwater International announced masks are now optional throughout their respective airports effective immediately.

"A lot of smiling faces today," president of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport Rick Piccolo said.

It’s a mandate Piccolo has been advocating to do away with for months.

"Really, it's counterintuitive to most people, it's causing more disturbances," said Piccolo.

He said forcing passengers to still wear masks at airports was confusing to people.

"Why do we have to do it here but not anywhere else?" Carlin said. "I think most people had come to the conclusion that this was just silly."

Carlin said especially on a plane where the air filtration is better than nearly anywhere else.

"The airflow exchange rate is up to 20 times more than what you would see in a hospital operating room and the hepa filters are touted as removing 99.97 percent of pathogens and viruses," he said.

Dr. Michael Teng, a professor at USF's College of Medicine, said taking away masks at airports right now is concerning especially as the new COVID variant numbers are increasing in some parts of the country.

"With domestic air travel, this is an easy way for the virus to get around our country in just a few hours," Teng said. "It’s kind of dangerous. It's like taking off your seat belt when you decide to start speeding again."

Teng said while getting on and off the plane when people are in close quarters and the circulation isn’t as good, you should continue wearing a mask to protect yourself, even though there is no longer a mandate.

As for Carlin, she says nearly 300 airline workers are fighting in court so that the TSA can never mandate masks again.

"It's not over at all because our purpose is to keep it from happening ever again," Carlin said.

LIST | Airlines making masking optional after federal judge ruling
Judge voids nationwide mask mandate for mass transit, some airlines drop requirements