Masks no longer required on planes, some public transit in the Midlands: here’s what you need to know

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Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 8:44 PM EDT
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WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - After a federal judge in Florida struck down the federal transportation mask mandate on Monday, public transit services in the Midlands are adjusting to the change.

Airlines had been requiring masks for nearly two years, and the Biden administration made them mandatory on planes, trains and buses early in 2021.

The Columbia Metropolitan Airport said that as of Tuesday, masks are no longer required in the airport, but optional.

CAE released a statement, which reads: “Based on the latest news and information issued by Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce its mask-related security directives.

Because this directive also extends to airports, as of right now, Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) will no longer require masks while in the airport. CAE encourages individuals who would still prefer to wear a mask in the airport, to do so.

Currently, each airline carrier is setting their own guidelines as it pertains to mask wearing during a flight. CAE asks travelers to check their airline carrier of choice regularly to ensure they are aware of their stance on masks before arriving to the airport.”

CAE’s main partner airlines, American, Delta and United, have also said that it is up to passengers to decide whether or not they want to wear a mask or not while on board the aircraft.

The same goes for COMET buses. The COMET’s spokesperson said as of Monday, masks were required.

The COMET says that in accordance with federal guidelines, masks will now be optional moving forward on its buses and in its facilities, but are still strongly encouraged.

For many CAE travelers, this news brings a sigh of relief.

“I think it’s awesome, it’s wonderful,” Roger Hosier, who was visiting family in Columbia, said. “It’s about time they did it. I could understand it in the beginning for a short-term just because they didn’t understand what was really going on and what kind of things they were even dealing with, so that was understandable to have a short-term thing while they’re trying to figure it out, but after that, they should’ve let it go.”

Jason Hunt said he was pleased to this news as he gets set to fly to San Diego.

“I think in the main Columbia’s ready for that so it kind of fits where we are as a city,” he said.

Not everyone is on board.

“It’s not over yet,” Donna Hickey, who lives in Lugoff, said. “People are jumping the gun here I think.”

Some said they would continue wearing masks on public transportation, despite the ruling.

“I’m going to continue to wear the masks in the airport and on the plane, especially if I have people next to me,” Claudia Fultz, who was flying out of CAE Tuesday, said. “I’m vaccinated, I have the booster.”

Shawnbren Williams is a frequent COMET passenger, and will not be shedding her mask.

“I don’t want to catch corona and it’s still out there floating around so I will still be wearing my mask,” she said.

The shift in guidance left Jonnette Mayes puzzled.

“I’m very confused about how they go from you have to have it like maybe yesterday or last week you had to have it and then today it’s just like, ‘Yea, everybody’s good, take the mask off,’” she said. “So it’s just a confusing thing for me to know where the balance is with it.”

Uber and Lyft updated their mask guidance on Tuesday too. The rideshare companies are now leaving it up to individual passengers.

The Justice Department said Tuesday evening that it will appeal the judge’s ruling if the CDC deems the mandate necessary. The DOJ will not ask the court to stay the decision, which means that passengers can continue going maskless if the decision is litigated.

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