U.S. extends airplane mask mandate through April 18

Health, Fitness & Food

A sign reads “Wear A Mask” at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021.
Elijah Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Transportation Security Administration is extending a federal requirement that travelers wear masks on airplanes, at airports, on trains and buses through April 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The mandate was set to expire on March 19.

An extension of the mandate comes as the Biden administration, cities and states have rolled back mask mandates and other pandemic policies elsewhere as Covid cases drop.

The shorter extension of the policy compared with previous announcements suggests President Joe Biden and the CDC are weighing whether to lift the mandate entirely this spring, if Covid cases continue to fall.

The CDC plans to 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,” it said in a statement.

The CDC said the new rules will be based on Covid cases, new variant risk “and the latest science.”

Airlines and other travel industry groups last month urged the White House to lift Covid testing requirements for inbound international travelers, including returning U.S. citizens, as some countries, such as the U.K., loosen entry requirements.

The White House and CDC didn’t comment.

The Biden administration ordered air, bus and rail travelers to wear masks, including at airports and train stations, shortly after the president took office in January 2021. The government repeatedly extended it over the past year, mostly recently in December.

Airlines had issued their own requirements since spring 2020, at the start of the pandemic, but then-President Donald Trump didn’t issue a government mandate, which labor unions had pushed for.

More than 71% of the record 5,981 reports of unruly airline passenger behavior last year have been tied to disputes over mask mandates, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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