Osterholm calls decision overturning mask mandate on public transit a ‘real challenge’
“This will not be the last of the needs for public health measures.”
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, called a Florida judge’s recent decision overturning the federal mask mandate on public transportation “a real challenge.”
“This won’t be the last of the public health measures we’ve taken for any crisis,” Osterholm exclusively told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday. “And what could be the crisis of tomorrow?
The Transportation Security Administration announced last week that the travel mask requirement will no longer be enforced by the agency since the mandate was rescinded. But the Justice Department is appealing the decision after the Center for Disease Control intervened.
“As a priority, this case is very, very important,” Osterholm added. “I think the confusion around the mandate of the mask itself and its effectiveness is a secondary issue, but still important as well.”
Raddatz followed, asking Osterholm about told the New York Times this week that public health messages around masking have been “far from the truth”.
“Well, it’s off. First of all, let me be very clear, I’m very, very strongly in favor of respiratory protection,” he said. “Someone can do a lot to protect themselves and others if they use an N95 respirator. But this virus is transmitted by what we call aerosols. These are very fine particles that float in the air. is like smoke. It’s like perfume. And you must have a high quality respirator to protect yourself.
“I think what we want to do is stop talking about masking and talking about effective respiratory protection,” Osterholm added.
“And how do you do that?” Raddatz asked.
“First of all, the American public is done with the pandemic, even though the virus is not done with us,” Osterholm replied. “And we have to recognize that in public health.”
“So what can we do? Well, we have to have credibility,” he added. “And again, what happened was that it became…really a philosophical and political problem, not a scientific problem.”
Despite his objections to cloth masks, Osterholm still strongly recommends the use of N95 respirators, “particularly if you are an immunocompromised person.”
“If everyone can do that, they would stay in control of the duration of a flight, not wear it under their noses, so that would be a very effective way to get a warrant,” Osterholm said.
Raddatz also asked about the pandemic as cases rise in most states.
“What is the true state of the pandemic right now? she pressed.
“You know, Martha, every day is a whole new day with this pandemic, compared to the variants,” Osterholm said. “We know we have strains that are much more infectious, so, you know, you can’t find an answer today to say we’re there because tomorrow it might change.”
Despite the rise in cases, hospitalizations from the virus are still at a national low, which Osterholm called “good news.”
“But I want to emphasize that everything could change tomorrow, and that’s what the public doesn’t want to hear,” he added. “They want it over.”