US to ease mask mandate on public transit as pandemic wanes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is developing guidelines that will facilitate the nationwide mask mandate on planes, buses and other public transportation next month, according to a U.S. official, but the current coverage requirement of the face will be extended until April 18.

The requirement, which is enforced by the Transportation Security Administration, was set to expire on March 18, but was extended for a month to give the public health agency time to develop new, more targeted policies. The requirement extends to planes, buses, trains and transit centers.

According to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the announcement ahead of time, the CDC is developing a “revised policy framework” to determine when masks should be required on transit systems based on of its recently released “COVID-19 Community Levels.” metric.

As of March 3, more than 90% of the U.S. population is in a location with low to medium community levels of COVID-19, where public mask wearing is no longer recommended in indoor settings.

“We need to look not only at the science with respect to transmission in masks, but also at the epidemiology and how often we may come across a concerning variant or an interesting variant in our travel corridors,” said the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. On March 2, explaining why the agency was delaying removing the transit requirement but allowing people to gather without masks in movie theaters and sports arenas.

News of the extension and policy review was first reported by Reuters.

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