Dr. Scott Gottlieb: ‘Being in an Airplane Is Safe’; Mandate Can Be Lifted

Dr. Scott Gottlieb: 'Being in an Airplane Is Safe'; Mandate Can Be Lifted scott gottlieb speaks to congress during a hearing Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (Oliver Douliery/AP)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Thursday, 14 April 2022 10:54 AM

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he is not surprised the Biden administration extended the mask mandate for passengers on planes and those using public transportation.

Gottlieb made his comments during a Thursday interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"At this point, I think they can lift the mandate," he said. "I'm not surprised that they extended out a couple of weeks."

Gottlieb cited an increase on COVID-19 cases in sections of the U.S.

"It's regionalized," he said. "It's mostly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic [states and] some parts of Florida. I suspect we're much deeper into that surge than we know because we're not measuring all the actual infections that are occurring. I suspect we're only capturing one in seven [or] one in eight infections. A lot of people are either testing at home or not testing at all."

And he added: "I think this is going to be over sooner than we think. I think we're much deeper into the surge. In two more weeks, I think things may look much different in terms of the pace of the infection here in the U.S.

"I think the question is what do they do after the two weeks and there is some scuttlebutt that they won't lift the mask mandate entirely, but they'll require passengers to wear masks when they come on the planes and when they come off the planes.

"Being in the airplane is safe — safer than being in a confined space in terms of air quality. The filtration is very good. But it's only good once the engine starts and air is actually moving. The two most dangerous points in time are when you get on and off the plane when the air filtration isn't on typically."

But Gottlieb said a partial mask mandate would be difficult to enforce.

Asked about the difference is between eating at a crowded restaurant and flying on a plane, Gottlieb said: "What's unique and different is that it [flying on planes] is under the federal government's jurisdiction right now. And I think the federal government is having a difficult time peeling back the last real vestige of the mitigation that they imposed, so they pushed it out two weeks to wait and see what happens with the surge.

"I suspect they're going to lift it after two weeks. I don't think that they can push this out again unless the situation dramatically changes. The question is whether they lift it entirely off."

The Associated Press reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday it was extending the mask mandate order, which was set to expire this coming Monday, until May 3. The CDC said the extension would allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant.