Washington DC: The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is extending the nationwide mask requirement for airplanes and public transit for 15 days as it monitors an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was extending the order, which was set to expire on April 18, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron sub-variant that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.
“In order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC order will remain in place at this time,” the agency said in a statement.
When the Transportation Security Administration, which enforces the rule for planes, buses, trains, and transit hubs, extended the requirement last month, it said the CDC had been hoping to roll out a more flexible masking strategy that would have replaced the nationwide requirement.
The mask mandate is the most visible vestige of government restrictions to control the pandemic, and possibly the most controversial. A surge of abusive and sometimes violent incidents on airplanes has been attributed mostly to disputes over mask-wearing.
Separately, the Biden administration also extended for 90 days a public health emergency that has been in effect since early 2020. That allows a temporary continuation of a range of public health measures that do have broad support, from more generous Medicaid coverage to flexibility around telehealth.