CDC extending mask mandate for another 2 weeks

Apr 13, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

The federal mask mandate on public transportation will be extended by at least two weeks, a spokesperson for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed to TPG on Wednesday. The news was first reported by the Associated Press.

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Masks will continue to be universally required on trains, buses, taxis and airplanes and at airports — at least for now. The two-week extension means the federal mandate will carry through at least May 3. It was previously set to expire on April 18.

The order is being extended so the government can continue “to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity,” the CDC spokesperson said.

Cases have been slowly ticking up in some parts of the country in recent weeks as the BA.2 omicron subvariant of COVID-19 spreads. The city of Philadelphia just reimposed an indoor mask mandate due to an accelerating rate of new cases, becoming the first major U.S. city to reimpose some restrictions.

The mandate was previously set to expire in January but was extended a few times, once in March due to the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant. It was further extended for one month through April 18, with the CDC saying it would use the time to develop the new guidelines.

Cases of COVID-19 are climbing in parts of Europe and Asia, driven by the BA.2 omicron subvariant, and experts see similar trends in the U.S., although most say a new wave would likely not be as severe as the omicron surge this winter. Countries where cases are climbing are among those that have lifted various requirements for travelers.

The U.S. overall has seen a 14-day change trend in average number of cases climb by 8% over the past two weeks, according to a COVID-19 data dashboard compiled by The New York Times, with much of that increase coming in the Northeast.

The CDC did not immediately on Wednesday issue new guidelines for when a public transit mask mandate should and should not be imposed. The agency said last month that it was working on a framework that it plans to release by the time the current extension of the mask mandate expires.

There was no word on Wednesday about whether or not predeparture testing will be lifted, meaning travelers to the U.S. will continue to need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure to the U.S.

In late February, the CDC issued new guidance setting benchmarks to allow communities to loosen mask mandates. Every state has since lifted most requirements for face coverings.

Airline CEOs and trade groups have lobbied hard to get both the mask mandate and testing requirements lifted in order to encourage the rebound of travel.

In March, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to end the federal mask mandate on public transportation. The resolution passed 57-40, with eight Democrats voting in favor, and one Republican voting in opposition. The resolution was expected to stall in the House of Representatives.

Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.

Featured photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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