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The Federal Face Mask Mandate Has Been Extended Through May 3

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on Wednesday afternoon that the federal face mask mandate has been extended until May 15 to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess the impact of the highly infectious COVID-19 BA.2 subvariant on hospitalizations and deaths.

The news came fewer than six days before the controversial mask mandate, which had already been extended several times, was set to expire.

The most recent extension, which ran until April 18, was for a month and was intended to allow the CDC time to develop a new “framework” for handling COVID-19 on public transportation.

The TSA, speaking on behalf of the CDC and as the agency in charge of enforcing the rule, said the current delay would be for only 15 days to allow for more analysis of BA.2 and its impact on the US. If hospitalizations begin to rise, the mandate could be extended again.

“CDC continues to monitor the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, especially the BA.2 subvariant that now makes up more than 85% of U.S. cases,” the TSA said in a statement announcing the extension.

“Since early April 2022, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of COVID-19 cases in the United States. During the 15-day extension period, CDC will assess the potential impact the recent rise of COVID-19 cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations, deaths, and healthcare system capacity.”

“TSA will continue to coordinate closely with CDC and communicate any changes to this requirement with the public,” the statement continued.

After pressing the Biden administration for several weeks for the mandate to be lifted immediately, the aviation and travel industries are expected to be outraged by the announcement.

A group of airline executives, including the CEOs of American, Delta, and United Airlines, wrote to President Biden in March, pushing him to repeal the federal face mask law as well as the pre-departure testing rules for international travelers.

The president of industry advocacy organization Airlines For America wrote to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky again on Wednesday, claiming that the rule was no longer “supported by evidence and research.” The mandate was extended by the CDC just hours after the letter was published.

However, the move was not anticipated. New White House Covid czar Ashish Kumar Jha stated a few days ago that an extension was “definitely on the table,” though details of the new framework were expected to be released soon. The CDC has yet to give additional information.

In recent weeks, an increasing number of countries, including Norway, England, and Switzerland, have repealed public transportation face mask regulations.

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