Americans will have to keep wearing masks on all public transit including planes, trains and buses, the federal Transportation Security Authority (TSA) announced Friday.
The prior mandate, which applies to all public transportation, was set to expire in May.
Last week, officials said they were debating whether or not to reinstate a mask mandate on transportation, with airlines supporting the mandate despite and some passengers expressing frustration over the requirement.
Health officials also said last week that fully-vaccinated Americans can take off their masks anytime they are outdoors, except in crowds, but advised everyone – vaccinated or unvaccinated – to continue to cover their faces indoors.
The TSA mask mandate will now be in effect through September 30, the agency said in a Friday tweet.
Exemptions will be allowed for children younger than two and people with certain disabilities.
TSA is consulting experts on whether to extend a federal mask mandate for mass transit that was issued in February and is set to expire next month
‘The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,’ said Darby LaJoye, he Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator.
‘Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic.
‘We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.’
Earlier this month, the CDC also published data showing that unblocking middle seat on flights raises Covid transmission risks. Letting people sit in the center seats raised risks that COVID-19 would spread by between 23 and 57 percent, according to its lab studies.
On the other hand, more than half of U.S. adults have now had at least one shot, and the CDC says it is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel.
Mask-wearing has become nearly ubiquitous and an inextricable part of the ‘new normal.’
But they’re still a fraught subject for many.
Just in the past week, mask protests have broken out in Colorado and California, primarily at schools, where they are still required.
And mask mandates have been lifted in states like Texas and Arizona where the governors each prohibited counties and cities from issuing requirements for face coverings.
Both current president Biden and former president Trump said that they would not issue sweeping federal mask mandates.
But under Biden, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a federal order applying to mass transit in February.
So far, the real-world risk of coronavirus transmission on air and train travel appears to be low, due in part to the high turnover of air circulation on planes and systems like New York City’s subways.
However, experts also attribute those low case rates to mask-wearing, and travel itself, especially during the holidays and SP.
Americans have by and large been compliant, but the official told CNN that the TSA has fielded 2,000 reports of alleged refusals to wear masks properly – up from fewer than 1,000 in February.
Interpretations of the mask requirement have varied too.
Earlier this month a family traveling home to New York from Florida made headlines when Spirit staff kicked them off, allegedly because their two-year-old daughter was not wearing her mask while eating yogurt ahead of take-off
Most airlines are still handing out water and minimal in-flight snacks, implying that passengers can take their masks off, at least briefly.
However, earlier this month a family traveling home to New York from Florida made headlines when Spirit staff kicked them off, allegedly because their two-year-old daughter was not wearing her mask while eating yogurt ahead of take-off.
And while airlines have, predictably, opposed travel bans and restrictions, they support maintaining masking.
‘We do think it should maintain the mask mandate,’ Nick Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America, said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
‘It has helped considerably on airplanes and in airports.’
Individual airlines could maintain mask requirements, but these rules might be more difficult to enforce without federal citations at stake.
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