The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will extend its travel mask mandate for 15 more days despite protests from airlines.
President Biden's administration had previously extended the federal mask mandate to April 18 in early March. Airline CEOS united in calling on Biden to end the mandate on March 24, but to no avail.
Biden's CDC is making the extension due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
"CDC continues to monitor the spread of the Omicron variant, especially the BA.2 subvariant that now makes up more than 85% of U.S. cases," said CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund. "Since early April, there have been increases in the 7-day moving average of cases in the U.S. 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 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided to extend the security directive and emergency amendment for 15 days, through May 3, 2022."
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"It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do," the letter said.
"Now is the time for the Administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions — including the international predeparture testing requirement and the federal mask mandate — that are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment," the letter continued.
CEOs of Alaska Air, Atlas Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, UPS Airlines and Airlines for America signed the letter.
The CEOs went on to argue that enforcing the mask mandates has taken a toll on their employees, who have experienced an increase in unruly customers due to masking-related conflicts.
The federal travel mask mandate has remained in place even as all 50 states have announced plans to end mask mandates.