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Mask mandate for planes extended through May 3

Virus Outbreak Masks
FILE – In this May 24, 2020, file photo, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant prepares a plane bound for Orlando, Fla. for takeoff Sunday, at Kansas City International airport in Kansas City, Mo. Federal officials are extending into January a requirement that people on airline flights and public transportation wear face masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Transportation Security Administration’s current order was scheduled to expire Sept. 13. An agency spokesman said Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, that the mandate will be extended until Jan. 18. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

The federal transportation mask mandate that was announced in January 2019 was due to expire on Monday, however it has now been extended for another 15 days due to an increase in  COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite airlines, and other travel industry officials pleading to the drop the mask mandate, travelers will need to mask up on planes, trains and buses through at least May 3.

According to the CDC, the agency continues to monitor the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, “especially the BA.2 subvariant that now makes up more than 85% of U.S. cases.”

In a letter Monday to new White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, Airlines for America, the U.S. Travel Association and two other business groups renewed their call for a repeal of the mask mandate. They say the rules no longer make sense given stable case trends, including falling hospitalizations, and are hurting travel demand. “The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, particularly in the context of recent CDC guidance, which found that the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population no longer needs to wear masks indoors,” the letter said. “Numerous studies and public health experts have demonstrated that planes are among the safest of indoor environments due to the superior ventilation and hospital-grade air filters on commercial aircraft.”

The group’s letter follows a letter to Jha from major industry groups, including A4A and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, arguing that the mask requirements for air travel can be put to rest.

Twenty-one states also sued the administration late last month in an effort to get the mask mandate for travel lifted, and last month, eight Senate Democrats joined with the GOP on a measure to nix the mandate