(Trends Wide) — The federal transportation mask mandate will be extended for another 15 days, meaning people traveling on planes, trains and public transportation in the United States will be required to wear a mask through at least early May.
The mandate, the federal government confirmed on Wednesday, will expire on May 3.
The Associated Press was the first to report on the extension. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Wednesday that it would keep its mask order in place, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in English) announced that it would extend the mandate for an additional 15 days.
“The CDC continues to monitor the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, especially the BA.2 subvariant which now accounts for more than 85% of cases in the US,” the TSA said in a statement. “Since early April 2022, there have been increases in the 7-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases in the United States…TSA will continue to coordinate closely with the CDC and will communicate any changes to this requirement to the public.”
In its own statement, the CDC said: “To assess the potential impact of increased cases of serious illness, including hospitalizations and deaths, and the capacity of the health care system, the CDC order will remain in effect at this time.” .
According to the latest CDC estimates, BA.2 caused 86% of new covid-19 cases across the country last week.
A Biden administration official familiar with Wednesday’s decision told Trends Wide the purpose of the extension was to gather more information and understanding of the BA.2 variant of the coronavirus.
The United States is now averaging 38,345 new Covid-19 cases per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Cases are trending up in more than half of the states, including all but one in the Northeast, Delaware. But the daily rate is still one of the lowest since mid-July.
According to the CDC’s latest joint forecast, there could be just over 11,000 additional deaths over the next four weeks, one of the lowest estimates for 2022.
The number of new global COVID-19 cases and deaths also continued to decline by 24% and 18%, respectively, during the week of April 4-10 compared to the previous week, the World Health Organization said in a statement. its weekly epidemiological update, published Tuesday.
But the WHO and its Emergency Committee on International Health Regulations (IHR) said on Wednesday that the Covid-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern, a designation originally made in January 2020. .
In many places within the US, blanket requirements that people wear masks in public places have been lifted. The transportation mandate applies to mass transportation, including planes, trains, buses, and hubs such as airports.
The mandate expired on April 18. Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, told Trends Wide Monday that the CDC planned to share a scientific framework this week for the federal transportation mask mandate.
Asked by Trends Wide’s John Berman what he personally thinks about lifting mask mandates on transportation, Jha said, “I think these decisions should always be guided by science and evidence and a framework, a scientific framework, to help us make smart decisions about it.
“Let’s see what happens to them. And based on that, I think we’re going to want to make a decision based on the facts on the ground and the science and the scientific framework that we have.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at an event in Indiana on Wednesday that he believes “we’re all ready for the day when we can get past these mandates,” but said the country needs to monitor and mitigate emerging variants of covid-19. 19.
“We have to make sure that everything we do is responsible from a public health perspective. On the one hand, we are in better shape than ever thanks to the vaccinations that have been carried out and the boosters that people have received. On the other hand, we have these variants that have come up and we need to keep a close eye on them. So my hope is that we’re on a path forward, ultimately, that gets us out of these mandates,” he said.
The White House moved last month to extend the transportation mask mandate, initially put in place at the start of Biden’s presidency, through April 18. The White House has said that government agencies would consult with the CDC about the circumstances in which a mandate might be reinstated.
Flight attendant unions initially applauded the move to protect staff who are unable to avoid close contact with passengers, but some in the airline industry have recently called for the mandate to be ended.
A group of CEOs of major airlines have said they want it to end. The union representing Southwest Airlines flight attendants asked the Biden administration in March to “lift the federal mask mandate as soon as possible.” And a group of 21 states, as well as groups of pilots and flight attendants, petitioned federal courts in March to permanently end the mandate.
The mandate has also led to incidents of conflict with passengers in the skies.
The Federal Aviation Administration says that since the beginning of 2022, some 744 incidents of unruly passengers related to the use of masks were reported to the agency by airline attendants.
Trends Wide’s Jamie Gumbrecht, Greg Wallace and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.