Sen. Amy Klobuchar and some of her Senate colleagues are asking federal health and transportation officials to update the public on the current mask requirement for planes and buses.
In a letter to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Klobuchar and three other senators (one a Democrat, two of them Republicans) asked for an "update" on the current travel guidance with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
The current federal regulations require travelers to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, on planes, trains, buses, boats or other forms of public transportation, and while at public transit hubs (such as an airport).
Some experts are urging caution, citing the large number of people still unvaccinated, plus the increasing spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, as reasons to keep the face covering requirement in place for travel.
Here are a couple tweets from Minnesota medical professionals, for example:
The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has precipitously dropped in Minnesota since an April-May spike fueled by the B.1.1.7 variant. After nearing 700 COVID-19 hospitalizations in mid-May, the Minnesota Department of Health this week reported fewer than 100 patients admitted to hospitals around the state because of the coronavirus. But that's not the case everywhere.
As the Washington Post recently reported, the Delta variant is filling hospitals in "rural, lightly vaccinated" parts of the U.S., with the publisher specifically naming Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada and Utah.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading epidemiologist, said in mid-June that two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZenaca vaccines are 88% effective at preventing symptoms caused by the Delta variant, while expecting testing to show similar protection with the Moderna vaccine.
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) is quickly on its way to becoming the dominant strain in the U.S. This CDC variant tracker shows that Delta made up 20.6% of cases in the U.S. in the 14 days ending June 19. It reached that level after rocketing from 2.8% of cases May 22 and then 9.5% in the two weeks of data ending June 5.