Tension and violence onboard airplanes is soaring, but the CDC still wants flyers to wear masks because the unvaccinated are ‘extremely vulnerable’

Delta Air Lines New JFK Airport Experience
Travelers have been required to wear masks on airplanes for more than one year.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is against lifting the mask mandate on airplanes.
  • The Transportation Security Administration’s current mask mandate expires on September 13 but may be extended.
  • Thousands of travelers have been banned from airlines for not wearing masks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Wearing masks onboard airplanes is here to stay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come out against lifting the federal mask mandate that requires travelers to don face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when using transportation modes including air, rail, and bus.

“The truth is that the unvaccinated portion that’s out there is extremely vulnerable,” Marty Cetron, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of global migration and quarantine, told Reuters on Thursday.

President Joe Biden first directed agencies to create mask mandates for transportation in January and CDC soon followed up with an order that codified mask mandates on commercial and public transportation into federal law.

The Transportation Security Administration, tasked with protecting the nation’s transportation networks, complemented CDC’s order with its own mandate that covers airports and commercial aircraft, as well as surface transportation networks. Before then, mask mandates were solely a matter of airline policy, and the first airline to require masks for passengers, JetBlue Airways, didn’t do so until late April.

TSA’s mandate took effect on February 2 and has already been extended past its original expiration date of May 11. September 13 is the new scheduled end date but the order can be extended again if the federal government deems it necessary, and Cetron’s comments hint that it might be.

“I get we’re all just over this emotionally but I do think we will succeed together if we realize the virus is the enemy and it’s not your fellow citizen or the person sitting next to you on a plane or a piece of cloth that you have to wear over your face,” Cetron told Reuters, adding that federal agencies are expected to follow CDC’s lead on this issue.

Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

“It is currently unknown as to whether the mask mandate will be extended or kept in place,” Lisa Farbstein, TSA’s spokesperson, told Insider. “What we do know is that the mandate is currently in place until September 13. That gets us through the traditional summer travel season, just past the Labor Day holiday.”

New variants of the coronavirus may encourage the CDC to keep the order in place past September 13. Dominant in the US is now the delta variant that is highly transmissible and proven to infect vaccinated individuals, though data suggests symptoms are mild among those vaccinated.

CDC is forecasting cases to rise in the next four weeks with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, expecting a delta variant peak in late September, after the September 13 end date of TSA’s current mask policy.

Defiance to the mask mandate has heightened tensions onboard commercial flights as flight crews have been enforcing the policy. Passengers have hurled verbal abuse at flight attendants and interactions have even turned violent, as Insider’s Allana Akhtar reported.

“I’m sure there are some executives and many employees who personally wish the mask mandate would end today, were it not for the threat of the delta variant of the virus, simply to reduce the tensions that exist on aircraft,” Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and cofounder of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider.

Thousands of flyers have also been banned by individual airlines for not abiding by mask mandates.

More travelers are flying this summer more than at any point during the pandemic. US airports are regularly seeing more than two million daily passengers, according to TSA statistics.

Do you have a story to share about aviation or mask-related incidents on airplanes chain? Email this reporter at tpallini@insider.com.

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An American Airlines flight to the Bahamas had to be canceled after a group of unruly teenagers refused to wear masks

American Airlines
American Airlines flight.

  • An American Airlines flight had to be canceled Monday after a group of teens refused to wear masks.
  • Other passengers said the group, who were on their graduation trip, were being “terrible kids.”
  • The flight, which was headed to the Bahamas, didn’t take off until the following morning.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An American Airlines flight to the Bahamas was canceled, and its passengers were delayed overnight after a group of high school students refused to wear their face masks.

Flight 893 was about to depart from Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday night when a mechanical issue forced 172 passengers to switch to a different airplane.

As they were waiting to be reboarded, some of the students in the group refused to follow mask instructions from the crew, a spokesperson for American Airlines told Insider.

Read more: Singapore Airlines is betting on the US with new routes despite a COVID surge – here’s why the airline is expanding now

“Passengers traveling on American Airlines Flight 893 from Charlotte to Nassau, Bahamas were reported to be noncompliant with the federal mask mandate, became disruptive to other customers, and refused to follow crew member instructions while onboard,” the spokesperson said.

According to the Washington Post, some group members were also playing music with “profane” lyrics through a speaker and failing to stay in their seats on the plane.

A fellow passenger identified as Malik Banks told WSOC-TV 9 that around 80 percent of the people in the group – which was seated near him – “were being terrible kids.”

Another passenger, Christina Randolph, said: “All they had to do was follow the rules, put the mask on, sit there. No smart-mouth comments. And they couldn’t do it,” according to WSOC-TV.

Randolph is a nurse who said she doesn’t get much time off. “So when you finally get time off, you really want to be somewhere you want to be,” she added.

Travel company Breakaway Beach, which organized the trip for the students, claimed only one person out of 47 was behaving badly even though American Airlines said 30 of the students were involved in the incident, the Post reported.

“(T)he act of one individual is not the responsibility of others, and the students that were abiding by the rules should not have had to endure this type of treatment,” Breakaway Beach president Eugene Winer said in a statement to the Post. “The group was treated in an improper and overly harsh manner, causing unnecessary stress and aggravation to the travelers and their parents from afar.”

As a result of the incident, the flight had to be delayed overnight and passengers had to stay in airport hotels.

The teenagers were allowed to board the new flight the following morning after employees in Charlotte confirmed with them that they would comply with the mask policy, according to CNN.

The incident is one of the latest involving passengers refusing to comply with coronavirus safety measures aboard planes.

Since January 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration has received 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, most of which involve travelers refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate.

The rise in passenger aggression is having a significant effect on flight attendants across the country, who recently told Insider they’ve been struggling with their mental health.

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Costco will no longer require fully vaccinated customers to wear masks in stores, except in states that still have mask mandates

Costco
A Costco store in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

  • Costco announced that it will no longer require fully vaccinated customers to wear face masks.
  • However, the policy change only applies to locations without state or local mask mandates.
  • All customers will still be required to wear a mask in Costco’s healthcare departments.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Costco announced on Friday that it will no longer require masks for vaccinated customers in some states.

The company posted an updated mask policy on its website following Thursday’s announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks both outdoor and indoors, with some exceptions.

Costco said that in locations with no state or local mask requirements, customers who are fully vaccinated can enter the store without a face mask or shield. The retailer said it will not ask for proof of vaccination.

At stores in areas that still have state or local mask mandates, Costco said it will continue to require customers to wear a mask, with the exception of children under the age of 2.

At all locations, face coverings will still be required in the Pharmacy, Optical, and Hearing Aid departments, per CDC guidance.

“Costco continues to recommend that all members and guests, especially those who are at higher risk, wear a mask or shield,” the company said.

Costco tightened its policy around face coverings last November amid a surge in COVID cases nationwide. The company announced at the time that all shoppers, even those with medical conditions, would be required to cover their faces in its stores. When Costco instituted its mask policy in May 2020, it initially said people with conditions that prevented them from wearing a mask could go without a face covering. However, anti-maskers often used medical conditions as an excuse to go without face coverings in public places.

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John Kerry was pictured on a plane with no mask, and American Airlines said he shouldn’t have taken it off

John Kerry
US climate envoy John Kerry in Paris in March 2021.

  • A passenger photographed John Kerry on an American Airlines flight without a mask.
  • The passenger told Fox News he took it off after boarding but wore it for most of the flight.
  • Kerry said if he removed it, he only did so briefly, but American said it is “looking into” it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

John Kerry, the former US secretary of state and President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, was pictured on an American Airlines flight not wearing a mask.

A photo obtained by The Tennessee Star’s Neil W. McCabe shows Kerry sitting and reading on a plane, with a mask hanging from one ear, on a Wednesday flight from Boston to Washington D.C.

Kerry said that if he removed his mask, he did so in a way that was “momentary.”

American Airlines said it did not see Kerry without his mask but said that he should not have removed it and is “looking into” the incident.

Fox News confirmed the photo with the passenger who took it. It reported that the passenger, who wanted to remain anonymous, shared a photo of his boarding pass to prove he was on the same flight as Kerry.

The passenger said he took it off shortly before boarding and kept it off for five minutes, but he wore it at the boarding gate and for most of the flight.

Kerry said on Twitter: “Feels like there’s some St. Patrick’s day ‘malarkey’ afoot on Twitter.”

“Let’s be clear: If I dropped my mask to one ear on a flight, it was momentary. I wear my mask because it saves lives and stops the spread. It’s what the science tells us to do.”

American Airlines says masks can “only can be removed briefly for eating and drinking” and are otherwise mandatory.

The Tennessee Star reported that Kerry “was not eating, nor drinking, even though first-class passengers are often served before take-off,” though the newspaper did not say how it had this information.

American Airlines said on Twitter in response to the photo: “Masks are required on board our aircraft, and we are looking into this.”

And it told The Independent: “We continue to review the matter and we are reaching out to Secretary Kerry to underscore that all customers are expected to wear masks for the duration of their trip,” it said.

The passenger who took the photo told Fox News: “If five minutes is ‘momentarily,’ he’s correct. Not sure being in a plane without a mask for five minutes is excusable.”

Biden signed an executive order in January that requires people to wear masks on planes in the US.

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Biden condemns Texas and Mississippi for ending mask mandates, calling it ‘a big mistake’ and ‘Neanderthal thinking’

biden face mask
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds up a face mask at The Queen theater on October 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

  • President Biden said Texas and Mississippi lifting their mask mandates was “a big mistake” and a result of “Neanderthal thinking.” 
  • Federal health officials are urging Americans to continue wearing masks in public, social distancing, and washing their hands. 
  • The Republican governors of Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota all ended their states’ mask mandates earlier this year.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday called recent decisions in Texas and Mississippi to defy federal public health guidance and lift their face mask mandates “a big mistake” and a result of “Neanderthal thinking.” 

On Tuesday, Texas became the largest state to end its state-wide mask mandate and Mississippi lifted its county-specific mask mandates after ending its state order in September. 

“I hope everyone’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine, take off your mask — forget it. It still matters.” 

He added that it’s “critical, critical, critical that they follow the science: wash your hands — hot water, do it frequently — wear a mask, and stay socially distanced. I know you all know that, I wish to heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

Several states have loosened their COVID-19 mitigation policies in recent weeks and months. The Republican governors of Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota all ended their states’ mask mandates earlier this year. While North Carolina, Michigan, Louisiana, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Chicago, and San Francisco have begun easing restrictions on indoor dining and other activities, they’ve kept their state-wide mask orders in place. 

Federal health officials are urging Americans to continue wearing masks in public, social distancing, and washing their hands. 

“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this week. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

 

 

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accuses GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of ‘losing control’ of his party as Marjorie Taylor Greene provokes backlash

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives for a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, 2020
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives for a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, 2020

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of “losing control of his caucus.”
  • Ocasio-Cortez was referring to GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has sparked widespread condemnation.
  • Greene has promoted a slew of conspiracy theories, including election disinformation. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday accused Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of “losing control of his caucus” after Democratic Rep. Cori Bush said GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene “berated” her in a Capitol hallway without a mask on. 

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that McCarthy “has a responsibility to ensure his members do not harm others.” Bush, a Missouri freshman and Black Lives Matter organizer, tweeted earlier on Friday that she was moving offices to be farther away from Greene to protect her staff’s safety.

“He is losing control of his caucus & allowing these threats to go unchecked, while looking the other way as members like @CoriBush feel so unsafe that she must move offices just 3 weeks into her 1st term,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. 

Following up to that tweet, she added: “Moving offices is a huge and disruptive effort. Honestly it shouldn’t even be Rep. Bush that has to move and endure all this, it should be Greene – she is the one that posing a threat to others around her.”

Bush, Ocasio-Cortez, and some other Democrats are calling to expel Greene and other GOP members who spread election disinformation and helped incite the Capitol siege earlier this month.  

In a video Greene posted on Friday that appeared to show her January 13 encounter with Bush, the Democrat can be heard yelling at Greene to put on her mask. Greene, whose nose and mouth were exposed despite strict rules requiring face coverings in Congress, pulled a mask over her face and yelled back at Bush that she was a “hypocrite” for bringing “COVID positive members in here.”

Someone else with Greene is heard saying to Bush: “Stop inciting violence with Black Lives Matter.” 

It’s unclear what “COVID positive members” Greene was referring to or why she accused Bush of “being a hypocrite.”

A spokesman for Greene didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

 

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Head of White House security office has his right foot amputated due to severe COVID-19 and is facing ‘staggering medical bills,’ new report says

trump mask white house rally coronavirus
President Donald Trump takes off his face mask as he comes out on a White House balcony to speak to supporters gathered on the South Lawn in Washington, October 10, 2020.

  • The head of the White House security office, Crede Bailey, had a part of his lower right leg and the big toe on his left foot amputated during an ongoing battle with COVID-19, Bloomberg reported Monday. 
  • Bailey has been hospitalized with a severe case of coronavirus for three months, but is reportedly recovering from the illness. 
  • Friends of Bailey’s have raised over $35,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his rehabilitation and “staggering” healthcare costs.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Crede Bailey, who heads the White House security office, lost part of lower right leg, including his foot, and a toe on his left foot during a monthslong battle with COVID-19, Bloomberg reported Monday. 

Bailey, whose office handles White House credentials and works with the Secret Service, contracted the coronavirus in September and has been hospitalized for three months, but is reportedly recovering from the illness. 

Friends of Bailey’s have raised more than $35,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his rehabilitation and healthcare.

“Crede beat COVID-19 but it came at a significant cost: his big toe on his left foot as well as his right foot and lower leg had to be amputated,” Dawn McCrobie, a friend who organized the fundraiser, wrote last week, Bloomberg reported.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment about Bailey’s condition to Business Insider and Bloomberg reported that Bailey’s family requested that the White House not publicly acknowledge his illness. 

Last month, McCrobie wrote that Bailey’s “family has staggering medical bills from a hospital stay of 2+ months and still counting in the ICU and a long road ahead in rehab before he can go home.” She added that Bailey will need to pay for a slew of physical alterations in his home and a car that he can operate to accommodate his disability. 

Dozens of top administration officials and people tied to the White House have contracted COVID-19 and President Donald Trump has consistently downplayed the threat the virus poses. The president, who himself contracted the virus and was hospitalized for several days, has told Americans not to “be afraid of COVID,” mocked those who wear face masks, and condemned aggressive state measures taken to slow the spread of the virus. 

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