TSA to further extend federal mask mandates – include those on commercial airline flights
The Biden administration is set to announce the extension of the federal COVID-19 mask mandate for all transportation networks through the first several days of May.
The mandated was set to expire Monday but has been extended due to a new surge of virus cases fueled by the BA.2 variant.
The mandate comes from the Transportation Security Administration and is being extended on an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on the rise in cases seen in early April.
"In order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC Order will remain in place at this time," according to The Hill newspaper. "At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive and emergency amendment for 15 days, through May 3, 2022."
The mandate has been in place for more than a year and was originally set to expire in May 2021. It has been extended several times since taking effect, though the most recent extension is for the briefest period yet.
Earlier this week, the city of Philadelphia announced it would reinstate its indoor mask mandate due to a rise in cases – though hospitalizations continue to drop in the city of roughly 1.5 million people.
The federal rule means that passengers who are non-compliant with the mandate can be fined as much as $3,000 for repeat offenses and a minimum of $500.
The trade group Airlines for America recently sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky calling for an end to the mask mandate.
"It makes no sense to require masks on a plane when masks are not recommended in places like restaurants, bars or crowded sports facilities," reads the letter. "Further, the burden of enforcing these requirements has fallen on airline employees for the past two years, oftentimes creating challenging situations with frustrated passengers."