After a backlash, Delta Airlines revised its Monday statement on the lifting of the federal mask mandate on airplanes calling COVID-19 a "seasonal virus," to a revised version Tuesday calling it "a more manageable" virus.
"We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 transitions to a more manageable respiratory virus — with better treatments, vaccines, and other scientific measures to prevent serious illness," the revised statement on Tuesday said. "Thank you for your support in complying with the federal mask mandate and keeping each other safe during the pandemic."
The initial version of the statement captured by a Twitter user on Monday said, "We are relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus."
Monday's statement came after a federal judge in Florida ruled the mandate, requiring travelers to wear masks on buses, trains, planes, and ships in the United States as "unlawful."
President Joe Biden decreed the mandate by executive order when he took office in January 2021.
The ruling Monday is from a lawsuit filed in July 2021 charging that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not follow regulatory procedure by holding public comment periods before enacting the regulation.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of President Donald Trump, came in a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, Florida, by a group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund.
Former adviser to the Biden White House Andy Slavitt criticized the airline's wording change in a post on Twitter Monday.
"This news just in from the public health experts at Delta Airlines. Based on the judge's ruling, COVID is now a 'seasonal virus,' he said in the tweet. "No word yet on which 'season.' "
An epidemiology expert and professor from Yale, Gregg Gonsalves, also took issue with Delta in a post on Twitter.
"I don't care what you think about masking, but (Delta's) comment that (COVID-19) has transitioned to become an 'ordinary seasonal virus' is just bonkers, has no basis in science, and is outright misinformation misleading their customers (of which I am one!)," he posted Tuesday.
In its statement, the airline said that its employees would also no longer be required to wear masks, but they could still do it voluntarily.
"Effective immediately, masks are optional for all airport employees, crew members and customers inside U.S. airports and on board all aircraft domestically, as well as on most international flights," the statement said. "Delta employees and customers may continue wearing masks if they so choose. Wearing a well-fitting mask — such as a KN95 — protects the wearer, even if others around them are not wearing masks, according to our Chief Health Officer Dr. Henry Ting."
The airline also said that due to the "unexpected nature" of the ruling and lifting of the restriction, there may still be some TSA agents or others in the travel industry not yet aware of the change, and travelers should be patient if some still try to enforce the mandate.
Reuters contributed to this report.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.