The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has decided that the U.S. is not quite ready to lift its travel mask mandate.
The agency is extending the Transportation Security Administration's mask requirement for all transportation networks through May 3 – two weeks longer than it was set to expire – over concerns of a coronavirus surge spurred by the BA.2 subvariant, which has proven to spread quickly.
The TSA mask mandate for travel stipulates that consumers must wear a mask while on trains, buses, rail systems, airplanes, and at airports.
"In order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC Order will remain in place at this time," the CDC said in a statement. "At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive and emergency amendment for 15 days, through May 3, 2022."
Despite the short extension, there is no guarantee that May 3 is the definitive end to the mask mandate. In a press briefing delivered Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the CDC's move and said the extra two weeks will give officials more time to assess the potential impact of the BA.2 subvariant. Psaki said the CDC will determine what the next steps will be at the end of the two-week extension.
No longer practical
ConsumerAffairs reached out to the U.S. Travel Association to get their reaction to the extension, and the organization was not shy about expressing its displeasure with the move.
“Travelers and the travel industry need to hear firm plans to navigate the endemic environment in which the public and practically all other industries are now operating, particularly as the CDC no longer recommends masks for the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population,” Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes told us.
“With all of the tools now available to mitigate the virus, it is time for the administration to set a clear end date for federal requirements on mask usage as well as pre-departure testing for air travelers to the U.S.”