(The Center Square) – The Biden administration extended the federal mask mandate for public transportation Thursday even as states and local governments around the country drop their mandates.
The Transportation Security Administration announced the mandate would be in effect through April 18 of this year. It applies to federally regulated public transit such as planes, trains and airports.
“At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18th,” the TSA said. “During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor. This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change.”
The decision came as a surprise to many Americans since the CDC announced last month that the majority of Americans can now go maskless.
CDC officials said in February that masks are no longer necessary unless someone lives in an area where hospitals are struggling to keep up, which means about 70% of Americans can go maskless.
“We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing …” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
The CDC does not create any mandates of its own, only guidance for other entities. The CDC website has a feature that allows users to see if their county is considered “high-risk” enough to necessitate masks.
“Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area,” the CDC site says. “Take precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 based on the COVID-19 Community Level in your area.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the decision during the press briefing Thursday.
“When you get into an airplane, you travel to different places. You are not just static in one place whether it’s a green zone or a yellow zone or a red zone.”