CDC extends mask mandate for travelers and public transit for two weeks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration will extend the nationwide mask requirement for public transportation by two weeks as it monitors a rise in COVID-19 cases, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was to extend the order, which was set to expire on April 18, by two weeks to monitor any observable increases in severe viral outcomes as cases rise in parts of the country. The decision was made out of caution, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview the CDC’s action.

When the Transportation Security Administration, which enforces the rule for planes, buses, trains and transit centers, extended the requirement last month, it said the CDC hoped to roll out a more flexible masking strategy that would have replaced the national requirement.

The mask mandate is the most visible remnant of government restrictions to control the pandemic, and perhaps the most controversial. A spate of abusive and sometimes violent incidents on planes has been mainly attributed to disputes over mask-wearing.

Critics have seized on the fact that states have rolled back rules requiring masks in restaurants, stores and other indoor settings, yet COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply since the omicron variant peaked in mid-January. .

There has been a slight increase in cases in recent weeks, driven by an even more contagious sub-variant of the omicron strain, with daily confirmed cases nationwide rising from around 25,000 a day to over 30,000. figures are understated, as many people are now testing positive in home tests that are not being reported to public health agencies.

Severe illnesses and deaths tend to delay infections for several weeks. The CDC is awaiting guidance on whether the increase in cases correlates with an increase in adverse effects before announcing a less restrictive mask policy for travel.

Melvin Z. Madore