What the federal mask mandate ruling could mean for future pandemics

▶ Watch Video: How the end of the travel mask mandate could affect your health

It is possible that the Biden administration will challenge a federal judge’s ruling that put an end to the national mask mandate on planes and public transit on Monday, Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease expert and editor-at-large for Kaiser Health News, told “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday. 

Gounder said an appeal may be necessary given that the ruling could complicate how future pandemics are handled. 

“The real question here is what does this mean for the CDC’s power to reimpose a mask mandate? Say if we have another big surge next fall or winter or say we have another pandemic, so I do think you’re likely to see this decision to appeal to preserve those CDC powers for that what-if scenario,” said Gounder. 

For now, federal agencies are reviewing the judge’s decision, a Biden administration official said. The CDC still encourages masking on public transit.  

The mask mandate was originally set to expire on April 18, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended it through May 3, citing the need to assess the impact of a new coronavirus subvariant that is driving most COVID-19 infections in the U.S. 

“Right now, we’re waiting to see how this new BA.2 variant, this newer subvariant of Omicron, how that’s going to play out across the country. If it turns out to be pretty mild, the CDC was planning to let those mandates expire,” Gounder said. “I am concerned that we just don’t have quite enough information yet, and another two weeks was really the appropriate, cautious approach here.” 

“We know that this virus mutates. In fact, it’s mutating very rapidly,” she said. “We will see more variants, and we will see other pandemics after COVID. So I do think the idea of stripping ourselves of an essential tool and toolbox is a really bad idea.”

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up