The federal mask mandate on public transportation was set to expire last Friday, March 18th. Earlier last week, the Transportation Security Administration extended the mask mandate until April 18th. The White House had extended the mask mandate put in place by President Joe Biden in February 2021 twice. However, the Senate feels the front line preventative public health measure against the COVID-19 pandemic should be ended.
On Tuesday, March 15th, the Senate voted 57-40 to end the mask mandate. Eight Democratic Senators crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the bill, with Senator Mitt Romney being the lone Republican who voted against the bill.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced the bill. On the Senate floor, Paul said, “We have it within our power today to ensure the American people that we are irreversibly going back to normal.” This isn’t surprising from the staunchly anti-government senator.
Paul has refused to get vaccines and remains opposed to any government action to fight the pandemic, despite his opposite stance on the Ebola virus in 2014. Senator Paul is also on a crusade to remove Dr. Anthony Fauci from his position as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Despite passing in the Senate, the legislative hurdles ahead of the bill make it nearly impossible that mask mandate will actually end. Even if the bill makes it to a vote on the House floor and passes, President Biden would veto the bill.
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While sections of society have loosened pandemic regulations, the data hasn’t really shown a solid reason to do so. The current rate of deaths in the United States is sinking, but it’s still almost 900 deaths per week. The figure is similar to the first summer of the pandemic in 2020. While recent variants of COVID are less lethal, they are far more contagious, and the total number of deaths hasn’t dramatically dropped as a result.