The mask mandate for air travel and public transportation has been extended once again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. The mandate, which was set to expire on April 18th, will be extended another two weeks as officials continue to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases across the country. The mandate was previously extended last month.
All airline passengers and public transportation riders will be required to wear a face covering at least through May 3rd after the Transportation Security Administration told the CDC they would be extending the mandate, NBC reports.
Airplanes and public transportation are some of the last places where Americans are still required to wear masks. Most states have lifted their requirements for schools and other public places, and the CDC’s new guidelines say that masks aren’t necessary in areas with a low risk for transmission.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring masks on airplanes and public transportation after his predecessor Donald Trump had blocked the CDC from issuing a similar order in 2020.
Throughout the pandemic, public health officials have uniformly recommended the wearing of masks to curb the spread of COVID-19, particularly in crowded, poorly ventilated areas. On its website, the CDC “strongly recommends” wearing masks on transportation to reduce the chance of getting and spreading the virus.
Airline passengers are two to three times more likely to catch COVID-19 on a plane since the emergency of the highly contagious omicron variant, medical professionals have warned airlines. Many carriers have installed high-powered, hospital-grade air filters on passenger jets as a way to mitigate the risk.
The requirement to wear masks on airplanes has led to a huge spike in passengers behaving aggressively toward flight attendants. Since the beginning of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration said it has received more than 3,200 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, roughly 75 percent of which stem from passengers who refuse to comply with federal mask mandates.