The information market Polymarket predicts that air travel mask mandates will be over before the 8 November, when the midterm elections take place in the United States. Currently, the federal transportation mask mandate is set to run until 18 March.
1. Online prediction
Polymarket is an information market, where people can buy and sell shares on the predicted outcome of a given event. Despite being only a prediction, this particular “trade” serves as an indicator of people’s sentiments about the mandatory use of masks during flights.
The market currently sits at a 74% chance that a mask mandate for domestic flights — for all passengers, not just unvaccinated ones — won’t make it to the November midterm elections.
This unusual mask market was triggered by a tweet from Nate Silver, founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight. On 31 December Silver tweeted: “A fun question for prediction markets might be: will there be a federal mask requirement in place on domestic flights as of Nov. 8, 2022? (i.e. Election Day.) I think I’d make ‘No’ about the 3:2 favorite, but wouldn’t put a lot of money on it.”
2. Trading predictions
When trading or betting with Polymarket, the prices fluctuate depending on whether people are buying “yes” or “no” shares. Hence, the price is reflected as $0.00 to $1, so it’s a simple conversion to a percent probability that the traders on Polymarket give a certain outcome — $0.74, for example, equates to a 74 percent probability.
Like on a a stock exchange, people can buy and sell their shares. At the end date, people who put their money behind the correctly outcome are paid $1 for every correct share.
Writing for the industry air travel site View from the Wing, Gary Leff said he trusts prediction markets more than expert commentary because people are actually putting money behind their predictions rather than just making a statement.
Once vaccines were widely available, and the level of virus spread began abating in spring 2021, I thought mask mandates no longer made sense.Gary Leff, Travel Expert
3. US states dropping mask mandates
Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s continuing recommending that masks be used indoors in most of the US, mask mandates seem to be dropping in some states.
Five states have dropped or altered business mask mandates since late January following a drop in Covid-19 cases. Among those states are California, Delaware, Nevada, New York and Rhode Island — all but Nevada still require masks in schools, according to a NBC News survey of state mask requirements.