Delta Air Lines backtracks after calling COVID an 'ordinary seasonal virus' and igniting backlash

Delta Air Lines backtracks after calling COVID an 'ordinary seasonal virus' and igniting backlash
A "masks required" sign near a Delta Air Lines counter at Miami International Airport in 2021.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Delta Air Lines has attracted backlash over its announcement repealing its mask mandate.
  • Critics took issue with the airline's description of COVID-19 as an "ordinary seasonal virus."

After dropping its mask mandate, Delta Air Lines spurred further controversy over an announcement, later amended, in which it referred to COVID-19 as having "transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus."

The backlash on social media is just the latest instance in an ongoing controversy around changing COVID-19 policies. On Monday, Trump-appointed US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Florida overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask mandate for air travel and public transit. This prompted multiple major airlines, including Delta, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue Airways to drop their own mask requirements.

New York Times reporter Maggie Astor initially tweeted a screenshot of Delta's original post on Monday.

"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," Delta's initial statement read. The company's statement was edited Tuesday, and the comment about the "ordinary seasonal virus" was removed and replaced with "a more manageable respiratory virus – with better treatments, vaccines and other scientific measures to prevent serious illness."

White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz retweeted Astor's initial post, adding a link to President Joe Biden's plan to "continue fighting COVID." Official estimates state that around six million people around the globe have died of COVID-19, but a study published in The Lancet has stated that the death toll could be three times as high.


Munoz was not alone in criticizing Delta's early description of COVID-19, and its wider decision to repeal its mask mandate.

Still others have slammed the manner in which certain Delta employees announced the mask mandate repeal.

Experts have posited that the COVID-19 virus will never disappear, and instead will fade into a pattern of seasonal outbreaks. But for now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stressed that COVID-19 is markedly different from the seasonal flu virus, as it "spreads more easily" and "can cause more serious illnesses in some people."