Indoor mask wearing is no longer necessary across most of the U.S., said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky Friday. The restriction will remain mandatory on flights and other public transport until at least mid-March.
More than half of US counties are now classified as a low or medium risk for COVID-19, which exempts them from the measure.
However, TSA spokesperson Robert Langston wants to remind passengers that the federal mask rule, which applies to flights, airports, trains, and other public transport, will be in effect until at least Mar. 18.
“The mask requirement remains in place and we will continue to assess the duration of the requirement in consultation with CDC,” said Langston in a statement Friday.
The federal ruling makes it illegal to board a plane without a face covering and empowers the T.S.A. to issue fines on passengers who fail to cooperate.
For first-time offenders, fines range from $500 to $1000, with repeat offenders facing fines ranging from $1000 to $3000. The rule does not apply to children under the age of two or those with disabilities.
If the government decides to let the rule expire, airlines will be free to adopt their own COVID-19 safety policies. But, most oppose this option.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents flight attendants at United, Alaska, Hawaiian, Spirit, and Frontier Airlines, wants it to be renewed so that aviation staff has support when dealing with passengers who may put others at risk.
“We have every expectation that the mask mandate will be extended for the near term. The conditions in aviation are the same. Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine,” a union spokesperson told Bloomberg.
If the mask law is removed, unvaccinated children and medically vulnerable people will be put at unnecessary risk.
“It’s also critical that we maintain passenger confidence in the safety of air travel,” he added.