business news in context, analysis with attitude

Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The United States now has had a total of 82,377,156 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 1,015,790 deaths and 80,244,093 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 505,291,086 total cases, with 6,225,311 resultant fatalities and 457,116,084 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

•  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.4 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 65.9 percent are fully vaccinated … and 45.4 percent of fully vaccinated people have received a vaccine booster dose.

•  Axios reports that a Florida federal judge, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, yesterday ruled that "the Biden administration's rule mandating masks on planes, trains and other forms of public transportation," saying that "the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its statutory authority and failed to properly justify its decision."

After the ruling was handed down, CNN reports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said that it "will not enforce the mask mandate on public transportation … The CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks on public transit, a Biden administration official said."

Almost immediately a number of airlines - including Alaska, America, Delta, Southwest and United - said they would no longer mandate masks on their domestic flights.

However, in New York the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said that it would continue to mandate masks for its trains, buses and subways.  And the city of Philadelphia has not backed off its new indoor mask mandate, imposed just days ago because of increased Covid-19 case rates.

The timing on this is interesting.  The CDC just last week extended its mask mandate, but only for two weeks.  While case rates are going up, it seemed to want to get the country past the aftermath of spring break;  it seemed inevitable, except if circumstances changed, that the mandate would've been dropped on or about May 3.

I hope that this ruling - issued by a judge who the American Bar Association rated as "not qualified" when she was nominated - doesn't result in an even higher rate of transmission and new life for the pandemic.  I'll be traveling a lot over the next two weeks, and my plan is to wear a mask when I'm in airports and on planes;  I'll be curious to see what flight attendants and other passengers do.  (I'm double vaxxed and double boosted, but I still worry about the person next to me.  I can only imagine the discomfort when people find themselves sitting next to someone who is coughing and sneezing - unpleasant in the best of times, but now carrying a higher level of concern.)  One thing does seem clear - we'll know pretty quickly what this elimination of the mandate means in terms of the public health.

I'm not a lawyer nor a legislator, so I'll also be interested to see how this plays out in regulatory terms.  Because to my mind, one of the reasons that an agency like the CDC exists is to be able to mandate certain behavior in times of national emergency.  Which, make no mistake, this has been - more than a million people in the US have died from Covid-19.  If a new - and more dangerous - variant emerges, I worry that the CDC may be handicapped in its efforts to do its job.  That would be a tragedy of potentially epic proportions.