SoCal psychologists address rise in anxiety over sudden masking rule changes

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority changed its mind in regards to masking and the Department of Justice issued a statement saying it will appeal the ruling that ended the federal mask mandate if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes it's necessary.

All of these developments add to the confusion and emotions that range from anxious to exuberant.

"Masks are now optional," a flight attendant said on a Delta Air Lines flight to passengers on Monday.

The announcement was greeted with loud cheers as the news of a federal judge striking down the CDC's masking order on planes and public transportation began to spread.

"Wonderful," said one traveler. "I travel all the time for work and I don't have to worry about this anymore."

But not everyone feels the same.

"I'm definitely going to continue to wear masks," said Gabrielle Lydia of L.A. "I feel very uncomfortable in places where people are not wearing masks."

Lydia has multiple sclerosis. She is one of seven million Americans who are immunocompromised. She said she's anxious about the rapidly-changing masking rules.

"It doesn't really matter if you're boosted or vaccinated because you can still get it because there's long hauler's syndrome, and you'll become a chronically ill person," she said. "You'll become someone like me."

Getting from point A to point B for travelers like Lydia could be pretty nerve-wracking. Masking policies vary by state, city and mode of transportation.

The Transportation Security Administration said it will no longer enforce mask use at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber are making it optional.

The same thing is happening at Metrolink as L.A. Metro will no longer be requiring masks on its buses and trains.

In the Inland Empire, the Riverside and SunLine transit agencies are dropping masking on their buses. Others transit systems like Omnitrans and Beaumont will continue to require masks.

For many, the changes are disconcerting.

"The first time they took out the mask mandate, there was like another wave of COVID," said L.A. resident Jude Casteneda.

But Cleveland Clinic psychologist Matthew Sacco said if you prefer to wear a face covering, you should do so.

"Just because you're out in public or you're out somewhere and are seeing a lot of folks who may not be wearing masks, you don't have to do the same thing," he said.

Sacco said you can't control other people's actions, but you can find ways to control anxiety with relaxation techniques such as walking and meditation.

He said children may also be feeling anxious over masking changes and encourages people to give them time after school to decompress.

"When you're rapidly changing from one set of rules to another, and the expectation is as much as you can provide that buffer, I think it will go a long way," said Sacco.

Experts said parents should try to explain to their children why these changes are taking place and they can still take steps to protect themselves.

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