Officials say that the U.S. mask mandate for public transportation, which expires in January 2022, will be extended again until mid-March.
U.S. Mask Mandate Extended Until Mid-March
According to Reuters, Joe Biden’s administration will extend the requirement for travelers to wear masks on public transportation in the U.S. through mid-March.
The current TSA mask mandate on public transport was due to expire on January 18th, but amid concerns about the new Covid-19 variant, it is not surprising to see the mandate extended again.
The current mask mandate applies to all public transport, including:
- Air travel
- Cable cars
- Public conveyances
The mandate also applies to transportation hubs such as airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, and seaports.
The mask mandate will be in force regardless of someone’s vaccination status.
Earlier this month, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said:
“Wearing a mask protects the traveling public and all of the personnel who make the travel experience safe, secure, and comfortable.”
Mayorkas also added, “We will continue to enforce the mask mandate as long as necessary to protect public health and safety.”
According to sources, a formal announcement extending the requirements through March 18th is expected today, December 2nd, when Biden announces his strategy for fighting Covid-19 in the U.S. this winter.
During the announcement, he is also expected to confirm the shortened testing window for international arrivals in the U.S.
Earlier this week, Whitehouse officials and the CDC confirmed they are working to impose stricter Covid-19 testing rules for air travelers entering the U.S. amid concerns about the Omicron variant, which has now been detected in the country.
Currently, vaccinated travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days from their point of departure, but the new rules would require travelers to get a negative Covid-19 test 24 hours before, shortening the window by two days.
Some Airlines Have Banned Cloth Masks
Some international airlines have also banned cloth masks, including Finnair, Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, and Croatia Airlines. Most of these airlines are asking for FFP2, KN95, N95 standard, or surgical masks instead.
Travelers should check each airline’s requirements before heading to the airport to avoid being denied boarding.
Masks Have Been An Issue With Air Passengers In The U.S.
The mask requirements have been a source of problems in the U.S., especially aboard airlines, where some travelers have refused to wear them.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Tuesday that since January 1st, it had received reports from airlines of 3,923 passengers refusing to wear masks.
In September, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doubled the fines for all mask mandate violators. The penalties are as follows:
- First Offense-$500-$1,000
- Second Offense-$1,000-$3,000
The federal mask mandate-related penalties imposed by the TSA differ from the civil penalties issued by the Federal Aviation Administration for persons that engage in unruly and unsafe behavior, which has been a growing problem.
While passengers refusing to comply with the mask mandate account for a significant proportion of these incidents, there have also been more serious infringements, such as physically and verbally assaulting airline staff.
The FAA said they have instituted a “zero tolerance” enforcement effort on unruly passengers.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com