Federal officials have once again extended the mask mandate for planes, trains, and buses, angering congressional Republicans, the travel industry, and everyone else yearning to breathe free as they travel from point A to point B. Citing an uptick in new cases during early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that the existing federal mask mandate—which was set to expire on April 18—will continue until at least May 3.
The order "remains in effect while CDC assesses the potential impact of the rise of cases on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare system capacity," said the agency in a statement Wednesday.
In a separate action, the Biden administration extended the federal government's public health emergency that was first declared in January 2020. It is now set to end on July 15, 2022.
The refusal to return to normal after two years of emergency masking has drawn criticism from an airline industry that has yet to see customers return at pre-pandemic rates.
"It is very difficult to understand why masks are still required on airplanes, but not needed in crowded bars and restaurants; in packed sports arenas; in schools full of children; or at large indoor political gatherings," Nicholas Calio, the CEO of industry trade group Airlines for America, said in a letter to the CDC obtained by the Associated Press.
Public transportation, which is also affected by the CDC order, remains terminally depressed. Ridership on the country's largest rail systems is stuck at about one-third to one-half of pre-pandemic levels. (A slow return to the office and service reductions explain the bulk of those lost riders. A requirement to wear an uncomfortable mask probably isn't helping.)
As the mask mandate lumbers on, so does an effort by congressional Republicans to get it struck down by the courts.
In March, Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.), Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), and 15 other Republican members of Congress sued the CDC over its masking requirement, arguing it was beyond the agency's powers to unilaterally impose such a mandate.
"Congress never passed a law requiring masks on commercial flights. This lawsuit targets the faceless bureaucrats who are behind the CDC's unscientific regulation so that this illegal mask mandate can be brought to a permanent end," said Massie in a press release at the time.
The congressman said on Twitter that they will seek a national injunction to prevent enforcement of the CDC's mask order on Friday of this week.
This is why I am suing @CDCgov. @RandPaul and 16 members of congress have joined this lawsuit. The federal judge assigned to our case gave DOJ until last Friday to respond. We will file our response this Friday. Looking for a national injunction.https://t.co/79kBfvzpCF
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 14, 2022
Last month, a bill sponsored by Paul that would have blocked the CDC's mask mandate managed to pass the Senate with bipartisan support. It has since stalled in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.
For the time being, it looks like you'll be stuck donning a mask as you take the train from your crowded office to the crowded bar after work.
Billionaire Elon Musk has offered to buy all of Twitter in the name of free speech. Earlier this month, Musk had become the social media company's largest shareholder when he purchased 9.2 percent of Twitter's stock. His appetite was clearly unsated.
I made an offer https://t.co/VvreuPMeLu
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2022
"I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy," Musk wrote in a letter sent to Twitter Chairman Bret Taylor yesterday. "Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it."
Musk had previously expressed dissatisfaction with Twitter's content moderation policies, arguing they were a threat to free expression. He had mused (on Twitter) about starting his own social media competitor.
A potential Musk takeover of Twitter has provoked reactions of delight from some who expressed hope for a freer platform, and horror from others who worry that the billionaire's dream of a "libertarian" internet plays right into Russian President Vladimir Putin's hands.
Producers are also getting slammed by decades-high inflation. On Wednesday, the producer price index, an inflation measure that looks at the prices paid by U.S. suppliers, increased 11.2 percent from last year. Reports The Wall Street Journal:
That marked the fourth consecutive month with a double-digit gain and was the highest since records began in 2010.
The upswing in producer prices was a signal that strong demand, fueled in part by government stimulus, continues to collide with supply-chain disruptions, pushing prices higher.
China's harsh lockdown of the 25 million people in Shanghai continues, as do the protests of city residents. Reports Bloomberg:
The lockdown in China's main financial hub, now in its third week, has spawned some of the most anti-government criticism in years on the country's tightly controlled social media. The latest trending post to get censored featured an 82-year-old man pleading for medication with a local party official who said he could offer only traditional Chinese remedies….
While food shortages have eased in some places and protests are still rare, simmering rage is rife among 25 million people confined to their homes with no end in sight. Tens of thousands of social media users have passed around acts of individual defiance and reports of suicides on Weibo and WeChat, with censors quickly removing some posts on government misconduct.
• Russia has said that any effort by Finland and Sweden to join NATO would see it deploy more forces to the Baltic region.
• Alleged New York City subway shooter Frank James was arrested on Wednesday. Zack Tahhan, a 21-year-old immigrant from Syria, has become an internet sensation after claiming that he tipped police off to James' location. A law enforcement source told the New York Post James called the police on himself.
• The crew of Russia's Black Sea fleet flagship abandoned the vessel yesterday after it was reportedly struck by a Ukrainian missile.
• NASA says its astronauts are not quite ready to spend an extended period of time on the moon.
• Election integrity hawk Mark Meadows was removed from voter rolls in North Carolina as part of a state investigation into whether the former Trump White House chief of staff had fraudulently registered to vote in the state.
• Is Elon Musk really just trolling potheads with his Twitter takeover bid?
"The offer price also includes the number 420, widely recognized as a coded reference to marijuana. He also picked $420 as the share price for possibly taking Tesla private in 2018, a move that brought him scrutiny from the SEC." https://t.co/TsuezctxS5
— Tom Angell ????????ⓥ (@tomangell) April 14, 2022