Delta Air Lines initially called covid-19 an ‘ordinary seasonal virus’ as mask mandate was lifted

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After backlash on social media, Delta Air Lines has walked back a comment falsely claiming that the coronavirus, which continues to account for more than 35,000 new cases per day, has become “an ordinary seasonal virus.”

The airline made the comment Monday in an announcement stating that it will no longer require masks — a move several US airlines have made after a federal judge struck down mask mandates in public transportation settings.

Delta Air Lines rewrote the statement on Tuesday after a number of people — including public health experts — accused the carrier of spreading misinformation. The announcement now reads that the airline is “relieved” to see the mask mandate lifted as the coronavirus “transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus — with better treatments, vaccines and other scientific measures to prevent serious illness.”

The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

TSA stops mask enforcement after federal judges void mandate

Since the start of the pandemic, covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has accounted for more than 80 million cases and more than 985,000 deaths in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even though more than 80 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and cases across the country have recently been on the decline, 1,400 new hospitalizations and 375 new deaths are still reported per day, the CDC said.

A federal judge struck down the federal transportation mask mandate on April 18, but that doesn’t mean masking doesn’t still offer protection. (Video: John Farrell, Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

End of federal transportation mask mandate greeted with confusion, relief

Some public health experts have suggested that covid-19 is moving in the right direction.

The CDC’s acting principal deputy director, Debra Houry, recently told Politico that the pandemic is moving into endemic stages. But, she added, “what’s important when we talk about ‘endemic’ is that doesn’t mean that covid is gone. That means we’ve learned to live with covid, so it’s not disrupting our daily lives.”

Coronavirus cases have been climbing in the Northeast as the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2 has become dominant in the United States, causing more than 74 percent of infections.

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida put an end to federal transportation mask mandates. Almost immediately, airlines, including Alaska, AmericanDelta, frontier, hawaiianJetBlue, SpiritSouthwest and United, updated their policies to make masking optional for customers and staff members, at least for domestic flights. There may be exceptions for international flights, some of the airlines said.

This isn’t the first time Delta Air Lines has made pandemic news. When the coronavirus’s delta variant was surging last year, CEO Ed Bastian said he did not want to use the Greek letter — delta — assigned to the variant, instead calling it everything from the scientific term (B. 1.617.2) to “the darn varying.”

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