Delta’s chief of health thinks the plane’s mask mandate will be lifted soon

Passengers wearing protective masks wait to board a Delta Air Lines Inc. flight at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

Elia Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Henry Ting, Chief Health Officer of Delta Air Lines, said he believes the federal mandate for the airport and airplane mask will be lifted on “April 18 or shortly thereafter.”

Speaking at CNBC’s Healthy Returns event on Wednesday, Ting said that while he doesn’t know if the mandate will be lifted on April 18, the CDC, the TSA and the White House are all “watching closely” and “will certainly provide a roadmap. . “

“We have always known since the beginning of the pandemic that all restrictions should be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Ting, adding that a transition from “a global pandemic to a seasonal respiratory virus is underway right now.”

Ting, a renowned cardiologist named Delta’s first medical officer in January 2021, said that during the pandemic, the airline’s efforts to ventilate, clean and mask the air led to “a few outbreaks that could be attributed to a fly. “

The United States extended the requirement to wear masks on planes and airports, as well as on buses, trains and other means of transportation, until April 18 before the March 19 deadline. The Biden administration initially issued the mask mandate order shortly after the president took office in January 2021 and has repeatedly extended it since. Under President Trump, there was no government mandate regarding masking, but airlines, including Delta, issued their own requirements for masks dating back to the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

In recent months, the aviation sector has rejected further mandate extensions. On March 23, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, along with CEOs of American Airlines, Alaska Air Group, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and others sent a joint letter to Biden stating that he had “passed time to eliminate COVID-era transportation policies, “which includes the mandate of the mask on planes and at airports.

“As we have entered a different stage in dealing with this virus, we strongly support your view that COVID-19 no longer needs to control our lives,” the letter states. The CEOs also called for the removal of international pre-departure testing requirements for inbound U.S. passengers.

Ting said the CDC is aware that airports and planes are “really the last place where masks are still needed” and added that “in the rest of America you can go to restaurants, churches, sports facilities. , where masking is optional. “

He also noted the impact that compliance and enforcement over the past two years has had on Delta workers, flight attendants and crew. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, more than 71% of the record of 5,981 reports of airline passenger misconduct in 2021 were related to mask warrants disputes.

“It’s been two years that have been tough on our people,” he said. “This is the last area I think the CDC is looking at when it’s safe to have an exit ramp and revoke the mask’s mandate.”