PORTLAND, OR -- It’s too early to know just how much the recent court decision halting the federal mask mandate will impact overall COVID numbers. Dr. Katie Sharff is Chief of Infectious Disease at Kaiser Permanente Northwest. She acknowledges there's a lot of public confusion on the issue of masking on airplanes, "Why continue to push these messages? Like, what’s the implication?" The public health implications, she says, are likely to be minimal, "We are all co-mingling in grocery stores and restaurants, and people are co-mingling in concert halls. So whether or not people are wearing a mask on an airplane and then getting off and co-mingling is probably not going to have any impact on our overall numbers and trajectory."
But, Dr. Sharff says there could be other repercussions, "I think from a public health standpoint, stopping the masks on airplanes two weeks early is really not going to have an impact on the trajectory of the pandemic. It’s more the implications for legal rulings down the road if they need future mandates."
She says there isn’t a one size fits all approach, at this stage in the pandemic. But contends vaccines continue to provide the best protection against serious illness.