You still need a mask to fly in the US — but that could change soon, TSA says

Julia Marnin
McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

If you’re planning on traveling by plane in the coming weeks or using any public transportation, you’ll still need a mask, the Transportation Security Administration says.

However, that mandate could expire within a month.

The agency extended its mask requirement for public transportation for 15 days until May 3, the TSA announced on Wednesday, April 13. It was set to expire on April 18.

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The announcement comes amid the spread of the omicron BA.2 subvariant in the U.S.

BA.2 makes up roughly 85% of COVID-19 cases in the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on the extension.

“Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the U.S,” the CDC said.

COVID-19 cases hit a peak on Jan. 15, according to CDC data, and they’ve been on a downward trend since March 30, McClatchy News reported.

Cases have risen 4.9% as of April 6 compared to the prior week, agency data shows.

The CDC said it’s continuing to monitor BA.2’s spread and will analyze how the uptick in cases can potentially affect “severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare system capacity.”

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The TSA previously extended its mask requirement until April 18 on March 10. This most recent extension has generated mixed reactions along partisan lines.

“I applaud today’s extension and urge the continued centering of the immunocompromised and individuals with disabilities in our ongoing pandemic response,” Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a Democrat, wrote in a statement on April 13.

Meanwhile, Rep. Brian Mast, a Florida Republican, criticized the move and called it “unconstitutional and unscientific” in a statement on April 13.

The TSA’s mask requirement extension comes as about half of states have reported a spike in cases due to BA.2’s spread, Axios reported.

In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia moved to restore its indoor mask mandate, which takes effect next week, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. No other cities have restored their mask mandate as of April 13.

Roughly 99% of the country lives in an area with a low or medium COVID-19 Community Level as of April 13, the CDC reports. Less than 1% of the country lives in an area with high infection rates, and residents there are recommended to wear a mask indoors in public.