The mandate was set to expire on March 18, 2022 and will cover the spring break season.
In an announcement this week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended the mask mandate until April 18, 2022, on planes, trains, buses, and transportation hubs according to a White House official and a TSA official. The mandate had been expected to expire on March 18, 2022.
Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxing the need for masks in most indoor settings in February, the CDC recommended that the TSA extend the mask mandate for travelers. This is the fourth extension since the mandate was announced in January 2021.
"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," the agency said in a statement Thursday. "This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.”
NBC News reported that TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement the agency's collaboration with federal and industry partners has been instrumental through the pandemic, "and now we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel as demonstrated by the rapid recovery of the travel industry."
This mask mandate extends through the upcoming spring break season. While the agency did leave the opportunity to rescind the mandate sooner, it is unlikely to happen before the busy spring break season is over. TSA released a statement on March 9, 2022, on tips for smooth screening during that time. The first tip listed is “Continue to wear a face mask.”
“We are prepared and ready for a busy spring and are doing our part to ensure the traveling public is safe and secure by continuing to deploy new technologies within the checkpoint that enhance security, reduce physical contact and improve the traveling experience.” Pekoske said in the statement. “We just ask travelers to do their part by being respectful to each other and those who work in the transportation sector–from our officers to airport workers and flight crew.”
According to a statement by the Association of Flight Attendants on February 25, 2022, they expected the mandate to be extended because of the unique conditions of an airplane. Key reasons are the airplane is a controlled environment for everyone’s safety, young children still do not have access to the vaccine, and safety procedures are typically coordinated around the world.
"TSA is renewing its transportation mask requirement as the CDC works across government on a revised policy framework for when to mask based on its COVID-19 community levels,” the White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said in a tweet.
Overall, initial reaction for the mandate extension is generally positive: Bob Wachter, chair of the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine, said in a tweet that the mask mandate extension is “the right call. Shoulder-to-shoulder w[ith] strangers for hours, folks coming from places w[ith] different community rates of COVID-19. UK data (mild uptick in cases, plateau at higher level than US) may be harbinger of need to resume more caution in a month or two.”