TSA to extend COVID mask mandate for another month
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is developing guidance that will ease the nationwide mask mandate on airplanes, buses and other mass transit next month.
"At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18th," the official told Fox News.
"During that time, 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. 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," said the official.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers screen passengers at O'Hare International Airport on November 08, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The extension comes after a group of 92 Republicans sent a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske on Wednesday, demanding the agency end its mandate by its previous deadline of March 18, which TSA announced in August 2021.
"Given strong declines in COVID-19 cases and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest guidance eliminating indoor mask requirements for much of the population, we believe TSA’s mask mandate should be allowed to expire later this month," Republican Reps. Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania and Doug LaMalfa of California wrote in their letter.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York were among the 92 Republicans who signed the letter.
Passengers queue up to pass through the north security checkpoint Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in the main terminal of Denver International Airport in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The lawmakers added that since the agency extended its mandate in August 2021, "the rolling average of new COVID-19 cases has declined by nearly two-thirds."
As of last week, more than 90% of Americans live in low or moderate COVID-19-transmission areas, meaning they can stop wearing masks indoors and social distancing in line with CDC guidance.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded 535 unruly passenger reports related to face masks, which represents 65% of the total 814 unruly passenger reports the FAA recorded as of March 1.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced this week that he would force a vote on his resolution to repeal travel mask mandates on public transportation.
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent screens a traveler at a checkpoint in terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in Morrisville, North Carolina, on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
"Apparently government doesn't want to relinquish its power and plans to extend the mask mandate on planes & public transportation," the senator said in a Thursday tweet. "Not on my watch! I'll be forcing a vote next week to end this unscientific mandate."
In late February, various travel groups including the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Airlines for America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, asking the administration to repeal mask requirements, pre-departure COVID-19 testing, the use of travel bans and other regulations in the coming months.
Not wearing a mask in airports is a federal offense that can result in fines up to $3,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.