The Biden Administration announced it has extended the federal transportation mask mandate another two weeks due to rising COVID-19 case numbers across the country.
The mask mandate, which requires face coverings on public transportation, including planes and trains and in airports, was initially put in place in January 2021 and set to expire on April 18. The mandate will be extended to May 3 as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to monitor any potential increase in severe disease, The Associated Press reported.
“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,” a CDC spokesperson said in a statement.
The last time the mask mandate was extended, the Transportation Security Administration said it was done at the recommendation of the CDC. Since then, several airline CEOs and travel groups have urged the Biden administration to lift pandemic-era restrictions, including mask requirements along with pre-arrival testing for international travelers.
While the United States has seen a significant decrease since COVID-19 cases peaked in January, there has been a slight uptick in cases in recent weeks, according to the CDC’s data. Currently, the overwhelming majority of cases in the U.S. — more than 85% — are due to a new omicron subvariant, also known as BA.2, according to the agency. In the past, hospitalizations and deaths have tended to lag weeks behind case increases.