Delta Sparks Backlash For Calling COVID 'Ordinary Seasonal Virus'

Delta Air Lines was among the major airlines to quickly drop mask requirements after a federal judge struck down a national mask mandate on airplanes and mass transit.

In a statement on Monday, the airline said masks are now optional for customers and employees inside U.S. airports, on domestic flights and most international flights.

Delta's statement added that the airline was "relieved to see the U.S. mask mandate lift to facilitate global travel as COVID-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus."

That characterization prompted an outcry on Twitter, with several experts on infectious diseases blasting it as misinformation and others vowing to never fly with Delta again.

"This statement by @Delta that #COVID19 is now an "ordinary seasonal virus" is wrong," tweeted epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding.

"My source says that Delta did not consult with its senior medical advisor before releasing this misinformation. Hope Delta will correct ASAP!"

Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist and research fellow at Boston Children's Hospital, concurred.

"Who is in charge of @Delta's COVID/crisis comms? COVID-19 has not 'transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus,'" Rivera tweeted. "'Ordinary' viruses don't cause 1 million deaths in one country in just 2 years."

Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at The George Washington School of Medicine & Health Sciences, added: "Delta declares the pandemic over and COVID-19 is 'an ordinary seasonal virus'. The silence from CDC is deafening."

"So @Delta decided 'Covid-19 has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus,'" Steven Thrasher, a professor of journalism at Northwestern University and the author of The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide, wrote in a tweet.

"This is it, folx. No more testing. Scarce, debt creating treatment. Decree by biz & the NYT chattering class that hundreds of thousands will seasonally die. Dems & Rs. You're on your own."

In another tweet, Thrasher wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic "is over to all major American branches of government, political parties, businesses and regulatory agencies.

"We are entering an even darker period, of forced amnesia and forgetting—a time not unlike 1996 w HIV, before MOST ppl had yet to die of AIDS (despite drugs)."

Matthew Cortland tweeted: "I know sometimes people say something like "I'm never flying @Delta, ever again" – but I am actually never flying @Delta ever again."

They added that COVID-19 "is not an 'ordinary seasonal virus', SARS-CoV-2 is a pandemic that has killed millions of people and continues to kill now."

Cortland wasn't the only one pledging to boycott Delta, with television producer and writer Emily Andras tweeting in response: "Literally just cancelled a direct flight @Delta and booked a connecting @United flight and I'll never go back."

Delta and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been contacted for comment.

Delta Airlines passenger aircrafts on the tarmac
Delta Airlines passenger aircraft are seen on the tarmac of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on December 24, 2021. Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images