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CDC Extends Mask Mandate For Transit, Airplanes Through May 3

MARTINEZ (CBS SF/BCN) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that mask requirements for public transit and airplanes will remain in effect through at least May 3.

The nationwide mandate had been set to end April 18, but federal public health officials said they would extend the expiration date by roughly two weeks to allow more time for the study of the omicron subvariant BA.2.

"CDC will continue to monitor COVID-19 levels, in our communities, nationally, and abroad to provide the most up-to-date guidance to keep travelers safe and healthy," the CDC said in a statement.

People riding on BART who spoke to KPIX 5 on Wednesday had mixed views on the mandate being extended for at least another two weeks.

"I mean, at this point I think it's stupid. I mean I'm vaxxed. That was the whole point, right?" said John Galli.

"I feel a lot safer especially riding on public transportation such as BART," said Brandon DeLuna, who was also riding BART Wednesday while wearing a mask.

All Bay Area counties have lifted masking requirements in public places with a few exceptions like health care settings, but health experts said continuing to mask on public transit will help slow the spread of this COVID variant.

"Why tinker with a formula when you know it makes people feel safer when traveling and it's a relatively small intervention?" says Dr. Peter Chin Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF.

The BA.2 variant of omicron now makes up more than 85% of COVID cases in the U.S., growing roughly 80 percent faster than the original omicron variant that drove the winter surge.

In a statement on the subvariant released in February, officials with the World Health Organization said that while BA.2 may be more transmissible than the main omicron variant, the gap between the two is not as wide as the difference in virulence between omicron and the delta variant.

"Further, although BA.2 sequences are increasing in proportion relative to other Omicron sublineages, there is still a reported decline in overall cases globally," the WHO said.

Research is ongoing regarding how potent the subvariant is or the risk of reinfection it may present.

The subvariant has been detected in multiple Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara and Contra Costa.

Katie Nielsen contributed reporting.

© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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