Essentia doctor’s take on travel mask ruling

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Many are happy to go mask-free on buses and planes now that the TSA is no longer enforcing a mandate.

But Dr. Kevin Casey, Essentia Health’s Chief Medical Officer, said health professionals have some fears about doing that as COVID-19 variants become more highly transmissible.

"They seem not to make as many people sick, but they do still make some people significantly ill," Dr. Casey said. "And so I think we all in the healthcare profession have concerns that the numbers of people who are ill, the number of people who need hospitalized and have bad consequences from catching COVID-19 are going to increase."

He wants people to remember what the judge’s ruling really means.

"The court’s ruling was not that masks are ineffective, not that anything we have done is ineffective," Casey said. "Their ruling was, ‘Hey, you know what? You overstepped your bounds, enforced something you don’t have the authority to do.’ So this is not a condemnation on the masking, on the physical distancing, on any of the things that were done. This was, ‘You just overreached.’"

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He said people need to take responsibility where they can, masking, physical distancing, washing hands, and more. If he was hopping on a cross-country flight tomorrow, he said he’d probably keep his mask on.

"The longer you’re exposed to (COVID-19), the greater amount you are exposed to, the more enclosed you are in a space for longer periods of time, the more likely you are to catch it," he said. "You’re much less likely to catch it if you’re 6 feet away from someone and you’re walking down the street when it’s sunny out."