The Transportation Security Administration is extending the mask mandate on public transportation until April 18, according to a White House official and a TSA official.
On Thursday, the organization shared in a press release that it would be extending its rules for mask usage on public transportation and transportation hubs through April 18. The federal mandate was set to expire Friday, March 18.
The TSA said in its statement that the decision was made in conjunction with a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It noted that it will “work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor.”
Any new decisions, the TSA said, “will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.”
The mandate for transportation settings was first put forward in January 2021 by President Joe Biden. It had been extended multiple times and was set to expire later this month, The Washington Post reported.
The move by the TSA comes after the CDC dropped its nationwide mask recommendation last month. The CDC now recommends leaving the decision up to local governments and advising only those with high COVID-19 transmission levels to retain their mask mandates.
“We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when our levels are low and then have the ability to reach for them again,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a press briefing in February. “Should things get worse in the future, we, as the CDC, will continue to follow the science and epidemiology to make public health recommendations and guidance.”
States and localities are able to continue mandating masks in public spaces. The CDC’s guidance, though, can change if another variant emerges or if case rates go back up again.
The change to the mask guidance leans less heavily on the number of Covid-19 cases as a key measure, instead giving more weight to hospitalizations and local hospital capacity.