US extends plane mask mandate until April 18

A sign that reads “Wear a mask” at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on Tuesday, December 21, 2021.

Elijah Nuvlage | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Transportation Security Administration is extending the federal requirement for travelers to wear masks on planes, airports, trains and buses through April 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The term of office expired March 19.

The mandate extension comes as the Biden administration, cities and states have lifted mask mandates and other pandemic policies elsewhere as Covid cases decline.

The shorter policy extension compared to previous announcements suggests that President Joe Biden and the CDC are weighing whether to lift the mandate entirely this spring if the number of Covid cases continues to fall.

The CDC plans to work with government agencies over the next month to “help communicate the revised policy on when and under what circumstances masks should be required on the public transportation corridor,” the statement said.

The CDC said the new rules will be based on Covid cases, new variant risk “and the latest scientific evidence.”

Airlines and other travel industry groups last month called on the White House to lift Covid testing requirements for incoming international travelers, including returning US citizens, as some countries, such as the UK, loosen entry requirements.

The White House and CDC did not comment.

The Biden administration ordered passengers on planes, buses and trains to wear masks, including at airports and train stations, shortly after the president took office in January 2021. The government extended it several times over the past year, mostly in December.

Airlines have issued their own demands since the spring of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, but then-President Donald Trump did not issue the government mandate the unions were pushing for.

More than 71% of the record 5,981 reports of unruly behavior by airline passengers last year were related to controversies over mandatory masks, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

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