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Flight Attendants Say ‘Not So Fast’ On Lifting Mask Requirements

Various U.S. Senators are pushing to end the transportation mask mandate in the immediate future, rather than await its Sept. 13 expiration. Flight attendants prefer to wait.

“We certainly look forward to the day that masks are no longer required, but we are not there yet for transportation,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, in a letter sent Wednesday to the leaders of the Transportation Security Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We support the federal mask mandate in transportation,” Nelson, wrote. “It is crucial that your mask order remain in place at this time”. AFA represents about 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines.

For passengers using public transportation a CDC mask order is mandated by the TSA. Nelson said the order “has been effective at ensuring that airline passengers understand the requirement to wear a mask on aircraft and ground transportation, as well as in airports. This has been – and continues to be - essential to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during air travel.”

As to the future, Nelson wrote, “There should be no question about the need to keep the federal mask mandate in place at least through September 13th. Until the pandemic is under control, we continue to support all efforts, including mask mandates, to stop the spread of the virus and the harm it has caused to our lives and livelihoods.”

On Tuesday, prominent Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar and three other Senators wrote a letter asking federal health and transportation officials for an “update” on the current travel guidance by July 12.

Citing the CDC's May guidance that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask or socially distance, the senators requested answers to some transmission- and travel-related questions by July 12, 2021.

"If the requirement for wearing masks while traveling can be safely lifted and would serve the public health interest, then we believe it would benefit the traveling public," the letter concludes. Besides Klobuchar, signers include Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas).

That letter follows the introduction of a resolution to end the mask mandate. The resolution, introduced Sunday, was backed by six Republicans: Roger Wicker, Ted Cruz, Jerry Moran, Cynthia Lummis, Marsha Blackburn and Collins.

In her letter, Nelson said, “We are aware some are questioning the CDC mask order for passengers and crew members who are fully vaccinated. We certainly look forward to the day that masks are no longer required, but we are not there yet for transportation.”

Nelson noted the rise in onboard incidents involving non-maskers. She said that if mask mandates were lifted for vaccinated passengers, “It would be impossible for flight attendants to readily distinguish between passengers who claim to be vaccinated and those who do not.”

This article originally appeared on Forbes

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