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30 Apr, 2021 22:39

Biden extends 100-day transit mask mandate through SEPTEMBER despite advances against Covid-19

Biden extends 100-day transit mask mandate through SEPTEMBER despite advances against Covid-19

After taking a victory lap over Covid-19 vaccinations and declining cases, US President Joe Biden has extended the mandate for wearing masks in airports, buses, trains and planes past the initial 100 days and until September.

The requirements imposed on February 1 and set to expire on May 11, pursuant to Biden’s executive orders, have been extended through September 13, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on Friday.

The mandate applies to workers and travelers at airports and everyone on board commercial aircraft, buses and passenger trains – including commuter bus and rail systems.

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The announcement comes just two days after Biden highlighted the falling number of coronavirus cases and rise in vaccinations in his address to the joint session of Congress. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed their masking guidelines for outdoors and certain indoor spaces for Americans that have been vaccinated. The transit mandate applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status, however.

TSA has reported “almost 2,000 passengers” for violations since the mask mandate went into effect, but says its agents have “largely experienced voluntary compliance” with it.

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Extension of the 100-day mask mandate by another 125 days has been hailed by a trade group representing US airlines, as well as the major unions representing flight attendants. 

Masking “plays a critical role in mitigating the risk of transmission ... (and) has significantly strengthened our flight crews' ability to enforce these requirements onboard,” Airlines for America said in a statement.

“Continuing the TSA enforcement directive for the CDC transportation mask mandate will keep passengers and aviation workers safe,” said the Association of Flight Attendants. “Scientists have made clear that masks are the best way to stop the spread of [Covid-19] when in enclosed spaces like the plane or the airport – regardless of vaccination. Mask compliance is key to confidence in air travel as we climb towards recovery, which includes international travel.”

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On Friday, the Biden administration imposed a ban on travelers arriving from India, where the skyrocketing number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths has put a strain on the country’s healthcare system.

The Trump administration balked at a federal masking mandate, allowing states and localities to do so instead. A number of US states have since abolished the mandates in places under their jurisdiction.

Original lockdowns and restrictions were put in place back in March 2020, advertised as “15 days to stop the spread” of the pandemic.

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