The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has extended the federal mask mandate until April 18th. The mandate, which applies to public transportation and transportation hubs, was due to expire on March 18th.
Mask mandate extended by a month
The TSA has extended its mask mandate upon recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With most US states relaxing their indoor mask requirements, speculation was rife that the mandate may not be extended at all.
The TSA states that the CDC will work with government agencies over the next month to “help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor†
The mask mandate has been in force since January 2021. Photo: Getty Images
An administration official said,
“This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change.”
This extension comes around two weeks after the CDC relaxed its mask guidance, allowing approximately 70% of the US population to go without masks in indoor spaces. However, the agency continues to advise mask usage in areas with high community COVID levels.
How long will the mask mandate last?
This recent extension will add another month to the mask mandate, taking it through to April 18th. The requirement has been in force since January 2021 and has been extended twice, most recently in December.
However, with governments worldwide beginning to shift from a pandemic-to-endemic COVID strategy, its days may be numbered. Notably, the CDC remains open to an earlier policy termination, should the science support it.
This could be the last time we see the mask mandate extended. Photo: Getty Images
The Transport Workers Union, the second-largest airline union in the US, said it supported CDC federal guidance but noted that “the mask mandate has led to increased incidents of aggressive behavior from airline passengers†
the union added,
“Unruly passengers were an issue that our members dealt with before the pandemic, but we have seen this behavior dramatically increase over the past two years since mask mandates were enacted.”
Calls for masks to go
While sectors of the aviation industry, including some flight attendants, are keen to see the mask mandate extended, others want it removed to help catalyze a recovery.
The US Travel Association called on the government to end the mask mandate and remove COVID testing requirements for international travelers.
The association said,
“The Biden administration can help to normalize travel conditions in their April 18 framework by repealing both the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated international inbound air travelers and the federal mask mandate.”
Most states in the US have eased their indoor mask requirements. Photo: Getty Images
There are currently just three US states with indoor mask mandates in place – Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Hawaii plans to remove its requirement on March 26th, while Oregon and Washington will do so on March 12th.
Do you agree with the decision to extend the federal mask mandate by another month? Do you see it remaining in place beyond April 18th? Let us know in the comments.
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