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TSA extends mask use on public transportation until April 18

TSA extends its mask mandate until April 18
TSA extends travel mask mandate until April 18 00:16

Passengers on public transportation will have to continue wearing masks at least until April 18. The Transportation Security Administration extended Thursday its security directive for mask use, which had been set to expire on March 18.

The extension comes at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to an administration official, which will help government agencies with a framework to revise their policies regarding mask requirements on public transportation and in transportation hubs.

The revised framework "will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science," the official said.

The trade association Airlines for America called for the administration to identify how to move forward from COVID policies, including eliminating mask and pre-departure testing requirements. The group said in a statement that "research has routinely affirmed that the air on an aircraft is safer and cleaner than almost any other venue."

"U.S. airlines will continue to comply with and enforce the federal mask mandate in collaboration with the TSA and the FAA. We are encouraged by the lifting of mask requirements and other COVID-related restrictions in all 50 states as vaccinations provide a significant layer of protection and cases continue to decrease," according to the statement from A4A, which represents major carriers. 

Hawaii, the only state to implement a quarantine requirement for travelers from other states, is set to lift that restriction on March 26. It became the last state to roll back its indoor mask requirements, which expire March 25.

The CDC had first mandated masks on public transportation and in transportation hubs in early 2021, after President Biden signed an executive order that mandated travelers wear masks in airports and on commercial aircraft, trains, public boats including ferries and inter-city buses.

The TSA had extended its mask mandate in August and then again in January, even as airlines reported an uptick in unruly passenger incidents, many of which related to mask-wearing. Of the 814 incidents reported in 2022 as of March 7, 535 of them involved masks, according to Federal Aviation Administration data. Last year, FAA received more than 5,500 reports of unruly behavior, 4,290 of which were related to masks.

Sara Cook and Kathryn Krupnik contributed to this report.

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