It’s been a week since a federal judge struck down the nationwide mask mandate, and we’re already noticing fewer masks on planes and public transportation.
When news broke that the mask mandate had been lifted, the social media footage was shared of passengers and airline employees removing their masks mid-flight and applauding. While some were excited, others expressed their alarm at suddenly being exposed to maskless people on a flight they’d thought would have COVID-19 precautions.
Those mixed feelings about the end of the mandate have been reflected in the reactions of many Americans since the ruling was made, including Boston.com readers.
We asked readers how they felt about the end of the mandate and if they plan to wear their masks on planes, buses, and trains now that they’re not required to, and they were largely split on the issue. A slight majority, or 49% of the 484 readers polled, said they wouldn’t be wearing their masks any longer.
“I’m vaxxed and done. It’s long overdue. Vaccines and treatments are available for the majority of the population and high-quality masks are available for others in high-risk populations,” said Allen B. from Stow. “We should move to support a more practical test and treat approach.”
“It’s overdue,” said AC from Charlestown, adding that the new rules should also apply to schools. “We need to make masks voluntary for Boston Public Schools as well.”
While the mask requirements have been dropped for MBTA, Mayor Michelle Wu said this week that she wasn’t yet comfortable doing the same for Boston Public Schools.
“I think about the toll that this is taking. I understand the fatigue. I understand the desire to just move on,” she said during an appearance on WBUR’s Radio Boston. “Unfortunately, Boston Public Schools has pretty big vaccination gaps when it comes to our young people, and that has factored into our decision making.”
Lisa from Malden is one of many readers who say they plan to continue wearing their masks.
“I don’t care what others do. I can only protect myself by continuing to wear my mask in public and around people. Makes no sense for me to put my health at risk,” she said. “I haven’t had COVID and I don’t want it.”
Local experts have expressed concern at how quickly the mandate was dropped and warned that less mask-wearing could put vulnerable populations at risk. The CDC said that it will continue to monitor public health conditions and recommended that the Justice Department appeal the judge’s decision to strike down the mandate.
Whether the Biden administration reinstates the mask mandate or not, readers have made up their minds about how they feel about masks at this moment of the pandemic. Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers about if and when they plan to wear their masks.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Will you continue to wear masks on planes and public transportation?
“If people are sick or high risk they should wear a mask. If not, it is up to the individual. I will choose not to wear one.” — Sarah, Natick
“About time! Makes no sense that this would be the one place we wear masks, especially when proper fitting masks are few and far between.” — Jeff, Framingham
“Seems pointless when they are not worn in the rest of society. Also if you can take the mask off while eating on a plane…what protection was it even providing?” — Anthony, Dedham
“Long overdue. Wasn’t this supposed to be a short-term emergency measure to fend off COVID in 2020 until we had vaccines? It feels instead like an attempt to push a permanent cultural shift where we are now expected to obsess about preventing others from getting sick. Not what I signed up for and I want no part in it.” — Stephen M., Milton
“A bunch of people traveling in a confined space is already a petri dish. A little piece of fabric over your face isn’t going to help much if at all.” — Ed, Somerville
“The end of the mask mandate on transportation is long overdue. We have no mandates when it comes to concerts (which involve singing), ballgames (which involve screaming and cheering), restaurants, bars, etc. All places where the risk of transmission is extremely high. If the mask mandates end there, they should end on transportation conveyances as well.” — Lindsey, Brighton
“Finally. Let people make choices for themselves. Those who want to wear them can. My family and I were on a plane Wednesday and gladly didn’t wear my mask after the announcement was made.” — Michelle, Wilmington
“It is long past time to stop with masks. As someone with health issues that have been considered high risk, I got vaccinated. A big part of that decision was to stop wearing masks. Most people don’t even wear them properly anyway.” — Liz, Quincy
“I feel disappointed that people in this country can’t suffer the slightest inconvenience to themselves for the safety of others. I am very careful and wear a mask inside everywhere, and right now I have COVID.” — Jane, Woburn
“I think it’s part of larger mismanagement of this public health crisis. I’ve read some convincing arguments that mask mandates should have been handled differently; that masking should have been required in airports, but not on flights with the air filtration running; that it should be required on buses and trains, but not in airy stations. Masking works when it’s done correctly, but having a mask mandate in a space where you’re allowed to remove them to eat, for example, is pointless.
“At this point in the pandemic, continued work on more effective vaccines, a concentrated effort on vaccinating the global population to help prevent the rise of more variants like Omicron, and updating/improving air filtration and ventilation on transit and in all indoor spaces may be more effective than a mask mandate.
“All of that said, the smug joy that people have expressed at being able to unmask — especially during mid-flight announcements, when vulnerable people whose risk assessments were suddenly, radically upended were unable to get away — is a terrible condemnation of the selfishness and ignorance of the American public. Someday, you’ll be vulnerable too, and other people will shrug and say oh, well, it sucks to be you!” — AK, Brighton
“It is too soon. My wife is being treated for cancer and feels the end of the mask mandate puts her in danger. I will avoid taking public transportation as much as possible until the number of cases comes back down.” — Bill S., Beverly
“I think we will lose the battle against COVID because we don’t have the strength of mind to continue to do what we need to do. We are quitting, and that’s why we will lose to the pandemic.” — Andrew F., Brookline
“Too soon. Too many unknowns and variables. I have not been impressed with the American public’s handling of the pandemic and will use my own judgment as to when a mask may be appropriate.” — Joseph D., Danvers
“A sure-fire recipe for yet another economy-killing lockdown. There is no downside whatsoever to wearing a mask despite what some [less-knowledgeable] people might profess to believe. The facts just don’t support it.” — Carl K., Boston
“People should make decisions for themselves. If you want to wear a mask, wear it!” — Sue, Cambridge
“Due to variants, it’s probably early, but the public is weary. I flew three days after the mandate was lifted and wore my mask. Leaving Boston, about 40% of people on the plane were wearing a mask. Leaving [Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport], we were probably the only ones with them on, including the crew. They’re probably sick of trying to enforce it and I don’t blame them.” — Ann W., Peterborough, N.H.
“Planes are overdue. If the person next to you has COVID, you’re probably screwed either way. You might as well be comfortable and get a few drinks. The T, if I ever go back to riding it, I will wear a mask forever.” — Mark, East Boston
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.