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Biden administration to extend travel mask mandate as CDC monitors uptick in Covid-19 cases

Health officials to extend masking requirement for airlines and public transit through 3 May

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 13 April 2022 17:57 BST
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President Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to extend a mask requirement for travelers on public transportation that is currently set to expire on 18 April.

A forthcoming reccomendation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would extend the requirement for two weeks as the agency monitors an uptick in Covid-19 infections across the US, largely driven by a more-contagious subvariant. That BA.2 variant caused about 86 per cent of confirmed infections in recent weeks, according to the CDC.

The agency is expected to formally announce an extension on 13 April that would keep it in place through at least 3 May. The decision was first reported by the Associated Press.

The current CDC transit order requires travellers to wear masks for airline travel and on subway trains, buses, taxis, app-based rides and at transit hubs like airports, ferry terminals, subway stations and ports, with enforcement through the Transportation Security Administration.

The order was initially set to expire on 18 March before its extension through mid-April.

A group of Republican senators have also pressured the administration to lift the mandate entirely, as Republican officials nationwide seek to end government emergency protocols during the ongoing public health crisis.

The nation’s climbing number of confirmed daily infections – likely undercounted as at-home tests may go unreported to health agencies – have topped roughly 38,00, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The CDC is reportedly waiting to determine whether that spike in confirmed cases results in proportionally higher rates of severe illness, hospitalisations and deaths, lagging indicators that have fallen in recent weeks.

“Since early April, there have been increases in the [seven-day] moving average of cases in the US,” a CDC spokesperson told The Independent.

“In order to assess the potential impact, the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, CDC is recommending that TSA extend the security directive to enforce mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for 15 days, through May 3, 2022,” the official said. “This will give additional time for the CDC to learn more about BA.2 and make a best-informed decision.”

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