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At KCI, travelers range from elated to anxious about an end to mask mandates

Man in a gray baseball cap, black hoodie, and gray face mask stands in the airport concourse. He looks directly at the camera. His hand rests on a wheeled suitcase.
Eleanor Nash
KCUR 89.3
Standing inside a terminal at Kansas City International Airport, Guadalupe R. Muñoz said, "I'm going to wear my mask just for safety."

Shortly after a federal judge struck down the Centers for Disease Control's mask mandate for public transportation, all major airlines at Kansas City International Airport announced they would drop their mask requirements.

Travelers at Kansas City International Airport reacted with a mix of confusion, concern, and some excitement after the removal of mask mandates on airplanes.

On Monday, a federal judgestruck down the Centers for Disease Control’s mask mandate for public transportation. Soon after, all major airlines at Kansas City International Airport, including Delta, American, Southwest, and United, announced they would drop their mask requirements.

Following the decision, mask mandates were not only dropped at KCI, but also on Kansas City buses and the streetcar.

“Masks are optional. Respect for those still wearing them should be universal,” tweetedKansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Tuesday.

Inside the airport, some passengers expressed concerns about their safety now that masks are no longer required.

Terry Moss arrived in Kansas City on Tuesday from Florida and still wore his mask on the plane. He found “a mixed bag” with some passengers and employees continuing to mask up, and others who didn’t.

Moss says he was initially happy about the ruling, but was left with many unanswered questions.

“Is that immediate? Cause I'm flying like…next day,” Moss says. “And then, what's the rule? And is it mandatory? Is it not mandatory? Is it everywhere? Is it in some places? So it was a little confusing.”

The CDC announced Monday that effective immediately, the mask mandate would not be enforced. This means travelers could go maskless “on public transportation conveyances,” including planes, buses, trains, and ride-share vehicles, “and at transportation hubs,” including airports. Some cities and transportation systems have decided to keep requirements in place, but most airlines immediately removed their mask mandates.

Guadalupe R. Muñoz was going to Atlanta for work. He usually wears a mask in public, and on the plane, “I'll have mine on and I'll feel safe.”

Zina Salazar forgot her mask in her car back in Dallas and was “excited” when she asked for a mask at the airport and told she didn’t need to wear one. Salazar still took a mask to wear in federal buildings during her work trip.

She estimates that all the crew and around 90% of passengers on her flight wore masks.

“I'm good without the mandate,” Salazar said. “I feel like if people feel the need to wear it, they should be able to wear it. And if people don't wanna wear it, they shouldn't have to.”

Patrick Peebles and his wife were at KCI waiting to begin a trip to Spain. He said reversing the mask mandate was “too sudden, too precipitous.”

“I'm very worried,” says Peebles, “because we are on a flight to Atlanta that is fully booked. And so we'll have a whole fight full of people, some who may be not vaccinated, some who may not have been tested.”

“In fact,” Peebles continued, “it is more likely that we would not have gone if we knew there was not gonna be a mask mandate.”

The Biden administration says it intends to appeal the judge’s rulingthat struck down the federal mask requirement.

Eleanor Nash is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date. You can reach her at enash@kcur.org
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