The requirement to wear a face mask while traveling through airports or on airplanes in the U.S. will remain for at least two more weeks past the April 18 deadline.
That is according to a report from the Associated Press, which cited a person familiar with the matter in its reporting. According to the source, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will extend the order for at least two more weeks mostly due to an increase in severe COVID-19 outcomes in some parts of the U.S. but also out of "an abundance of caution."
The masking requirement is one of the two last big hurdles for the travel industry’s return to normalcy, along with the inbound testing requirement.
The CDC first put the mandate in place in February 2021 and has been extended a number of times since its inception. According to the White House COVID-19 Czar Dr. Ashish Jha, speaking with the TODAY Show earlier this week, the decision is based on a framework that the CDC scientists create. More information on that framework was promised to be revealed this week.
If the framework is based on COVID-19 statistics, case numbers in some states caused by the new BA.2 omicron subvariant could tip the CDC to extend the mandate. That variant is responsible for close to 75% of new cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Still, while numbers in some states on are the rise, they still remain lower than the Omicron-surge at the beginning of the year and Jha told Today he was not “overly concerned” over the rise because “we were expecting this because we saw this in Europe,” he said.
The travel industry has largely seen the extension of the mask mandate, along with the continued inbound testing rules, as a major drag on its recovery. The U.S. Travel Association and the Association of American Travel Advisors (ASTA) have both continued to push for both of those rules to be lifted.
That mandate has also caused issues for those who are tasked with enforcing it, mainly flight attendants, who have been the subject of an escalating number of verbal, and sometimes physical, attacks on airplanes. Just this week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the two largest-ever fines for passengers.