The government has revealed that the current mask mandate that was scheduled to expire on March 18 has been extended for another 30 days. The mask mandate will now extend to April 18 and will require the use of face masks on public transport systems such as airplanes, trains, ships, and buses among others.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued the new ultimatum based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The federal health agency had disclosed that it is its duty to determine the conditions under which masks can be used, suspended, or revoked.
“The CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor,” a government 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.”
Some government and even airline officials believe the extension to April 18 may be the last time the government will enforce masks in public transport. Before this time, travel groups had been calling on the government to repeal its federal mask mandate for public transportation, given that the level of COVID-19 transmission has waned.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that about 6,800 flight disruptions had occurred by unruly flight passengers who refused to wear masks on planes from January 2021 till date. Relative to this, United Airlines said this week that 2,200 unvaccinated employees will be allowed to resume their duties as the science shows that the pandemic is declining.
The CDC also said people will soon be allowed to choose whether they want to use masks in public federal buildings or not in the next few weeks. The government is also considering if travel protocols for foreign travelers should be relaxed since many countries no longer require travelers to provide negative COVID-19 results within days of their trips.
“It is time for the federal government to recognize this reality, follow the science, and reduce or eliminate these restrictions immediately,” Senator Roger Wicker echoed the demands of 31 Republican senators who urged the government to ease travel requirements as well as mask mandates for everyone.