Travelers will be required to wear face masks on planes, trains and buses, at least until May 3. The Associated Press was the first to report on the extension.
The federal mask-wearing mandate, announced in January 2021 and due to expire on Monday 18, will be extended for 15 days due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . Prevention.
“Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day rolling average of cases in the United States. To assess the potential impact of increased cases on serious illness, including hospitalizations and deaths, and the system’s ability to deliver health care, the CDC’s order will remain in effect for the time being,” read a statement from CDC spokeswoman Caitlin Shockey.
The CDC statement notes that the agency continues to monitor the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, “particularly the BA.2 subvariant which now accounts for more than 85% of cases in the United States.”
This is the fifth extension of the mask’s federal mandate and comes despite repeated calls from airlines and other travel industry officials to remove it and other restrictions, including a coronavirus testing requirement. for travelers to the United States.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in an interview with CNBC, “It’s time to drop the masks and let the people decide. I strongly believe that mask wearing should be lifted and allow individuals, including our own employees, to make their own decisions and take personal responsibility for their health on board our aircraft.
Bastian said you can always wear a mask when traveling if you have a cold or are sick.
The White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, Airlines for America, the US Travel Association and two other trade groups have renewed their calls for the mask mandate to be revoked.
They say the rules no longer make sense given stable case trends, including declining hospitalizations, and are hurting travel demand.
“Science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, especially in the context of recent CDC guidance, which found that the overwhelming majority of the US population no longer needs to wear masks indoors,” says the press release.
“Numerous studies and public health experts have shown that airplanes are among the safest indoor environments due to superior ventilation and hospital-grade air filters on commercial aircraft.”
Attorneys general in more than 20 mostly Republican-led states have sued to overturn the federal mask-carrying requirement.
In a written statement, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich called it a “ridiculously onerous policy.”
The new expiration date for the federal mask-wearing mandate will increase the time U.S. airline passengers have had to wear a mask to the two-year mark.
JetBlue Airways was the first airline to impose a mask requirement, in early May 2020, and its competitors quickly followed suit.
Airlines, unions and consumer advocates have lobbied the federal government for months to impose the policy so that flight attendants have backup when they encounter resistance from passengers, but they have been unsuccessful. until President Joe Biden takes office.
In mid-January, Bastian said it was premature to speculate when passengers might fly without masks.
“Obviously this will be driven by the medical experts and not the airlines, and we will take their advice,” he said on the airline’s quarterly earnings conference call.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly came under fire during a December 2021 Senate hearing for saying masks don’t do much good on planes.
Some international airlines, including British Airways, no longer require masks and mask mandates have been lifted across the country in general.
When the Transportation Security Administration and CDC announced the one-month mask mandate extension in March, officials said they would use the time “to work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework on when and under what circumstances masks should be mandatory “in the transit corridor.”
“This revised framework will be based on COVID-19 community levels, the risk of new variants, national data and the latest scientific data,” the agencies said in a statement at the time.
Source: USA Today