Cal Thomas commentary: Free at last (until the next time)

Summary: Many will wonder what the reaction will be the next time the federal government tries to adopt one-size-fits-all mandates. Will we again resemble sheep, or will we have learned some lessons this time around? Will we, as they said in the '60s, be more aggressive to "question authority"?

Air travel resumes amid lifting of COVID-19 mask mandate at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia
A United Airlines worker assists travelers after the Biden administration announced it would no longer enforce a U.S. coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mask mandate on public transportation, following a federal judge's ruling that the 14-month-old directive was unlawful, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., April 19, 2022.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

"And they're off," as the callers of horse races say, but in this case, it means the government will no longer enforce mask mandates on airplanes, trains, buses, subways and other forms of public transportation.

U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a judge for the Middle District of Florida, said the rule exceeded the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Transportation Security Agency. To complete the analogy, perhaps we can say that the government behaved like a horse's patootie.

Videos of airline passengers ripping off their masks and cheering appeared on websites as flight attendants made the announcement. The attendants, too, must feel relief as too many suffered abuse while telling passengers to wear masks or to wear them properly.

As people began to grow tired of what many believed to be this arbitrary and ineffective mandate, growing numbers of airline passengers (me included) took advantage of the option to lower their masks while drinking and eating the snacks airlines offer these days. Some prolonged their munching and sipping to extend the time they could remain unmasked. Did anyone believe that if the virus were on a plane, it would suspend infecting people while they ate and drank with their masks down?

Cal Thomas commentary
Cal Thomas Commentary
Tribune graphic

Airlines had touted the air filtration systems they had installed near the start of the pandemic as "state of the art." The International Air Transport Association said, "The risk of catching an infection on an aircraft is typically lower than in a shopping center or office environment."


It didn't matter to the federal government, which seems to seize any opportunity to limit our freedoms and ability to make our own choices. The conflicting information coming from the CDC added to widespread confusion and contributed to the distrust and animus many felt toward Washington. The Justice Department has just announced that it intends to appeal Mizelle's decision if the CDC thinks mask mandates are still needed.

What should concern all of us is how easily freedom can be lost. Too many Americans behaved like sheep, abiding by what they were told by so-called "experts." These scientists claimed divine-like wisdom. Dr. Anthony Fauci went so far as to proclaim that attacks on him were actually "criticizing science." Objections to Fauci's pronouncements were not treated seriously. "Gods" are not to be doubted. When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote a book questioning the efficacy of vaccines and the motives of the pharmaceutical companies, he was immediately cast out among the anti-vaxxers rather than having his concerns addressed.

This is what freedom looks like: If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you don't want to wear a mask, don't wear one.

I've seen people driving alone in their car with a mask on. It makes me laugh, but it's their choice.

The government hates giving up power over its citizens. That's probably why the CDC tried to extend the mask mandate for public transportation an additional 15 days.

I know people who have been vaccinated three times, but still became infected with the current COVID-19 variant, which appears to me to be the least harmful of them all when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths. As with the flu and common cold, people can take precautions, but decide for themselves what those precautions should be.

Many will wonder what the reaction will be the next time the federal government tries to adopt one-size-fits-all mandates. Will we again resemble sheep, or will we have learned some lessons this time around? Will we, as they said in the '60s, be more aggressive to "question authority"?

By the way, Judge Kathryn Mizelle was appointed by former President Trump. Elections have consequences and in this case the consequences are good for travelers.


Cal Thomas can be reached at


Opinion by Cal Thomas
What to read next
Summary: Some "pro-life" activists want Congress to ban abortion nationwide. "That," The Wall Street Journal opines, "will strike many Americans as hypocritical after decades of Republican claims that repealing Roe would return the issue to the states." But "that" is something they will undoubtedly try. ... Answered prayers have their consequences.
Summary: Judy Huth waited nearly 50 years. That is one long-delayed victory. But the fact that Bill Cosby will finally have to pay for what he did that night should give pause to those who would prematurely declare the death of the #MeToo movement at the hands of Amber Heard. Forget about Heard.
Summary: All of this will happen — not because of any constitutional principle — but because a majority of the justices have decided they have unbridled power to govern the lives of Americans has they choose.