Federal Mask Mandate on Airplanes Extended Until May 3 Due to New COVID Sub-Variant

Under provisions of the extended travel mask mandate, passengers using public transportation, airplanes and trains are required to wear face masks

protective sterile face masks
Photo: Getty

The nationwide travel mask mandate is being extended as a safety precaution against the BA.2 sub-variant of omicron.

In a news release Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the Transportation Security Administration is extending its mask mandate until May 3.

Under provisions of the travel mask mandate passengers using public transportation, airplanes and trains are required to wear face masks.

Meanwhile, the CDC will keep its mask order in place as it monitors COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the agency added in the news release.

According to the CDC, cases of the BA.2 sub-variant of omicron now account for more than 85 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Amid the extension of the travel mask mandate, the CDC is also updating its Travel Health Notice system for international travel with its new level system set to take effect on Monday.

"To help the public understand when the highest level of concern is most urgent, this new system will reserve Level 4 travel health notices for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, or healthcare infrastructure collapse. Levels 3, 2, and 1 will continue to be primarily determined by 28-day incidence or case counts," added the CDC in the news release.

Woman traveling by plane wearing a facemask
Travelers wearing masks on a plane. Getty

On Monday, the Philadelphia Health Department announced the city is restoring its indoor mask mandate after experiencing an increase in virus cases.

The mandate is being reinstated after coronavirus cases in Philadelphia surged more than 50 percent in the span of 10 days as of Monday. Philadelphia's indoor mask mandate officially goes into effect on April 18.

Health officials attribute the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia to the BA.2 sub-variant of omicron that is known to be very transmissible, the Associated Press reported.

Philadelphia is stepping up efforts to fight the virus, while Washington, D.C., and New York City experienced increased COVID-19 cases in April.

CNN reported an official with President Joe Biden's administration told the news outlet the CDC chose to extend its travel mask mandate in an effort to better understand and find additional information on the BA.2 sub-variant of omicron.

White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha was recently asked by CNN about his feelings toward lifting mask mandates on transportation.

In response Dr. Jha stated, "I think these decisions should always be guided by science and evidence and a framework, a scientific framework, that helps us make smart decisions about these."

"We're going to see what they come up with. And based on that, I think we're going to want to make a decision based on kind of the facts on the ground and the science and the scientific framework that we have."

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