The CDC has extended the mask requirement for public transportation until May 3. For at least another 15 days, travelers must wear a mask at airports, on aircraft, and on trains.
The White House justified the decision by citing the need to “monitor for any observable increase in severe virus outcomes as cases rise in parts of the country.”
The move was also made “out of an abundance of caution,” the CDC said, but Biden’s administration is currently working on a more flexible mask mandate to replace the national requirement.
According to an agency representative, the CDC is keeping its mask order “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 decision was made in response to the growing spread of the Omicron subvariant in the United States and an increase in the 7-day average of cases, which has risen about 25% nationwide in the past two weeks. In some states, the number of new cases is substantially higher.
According to James Hodge, director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State College, the CDC is following science with this latest decision.
The CDC also announced that its mechanism for issuing Travel Health Notices to international travel destinations will be updated.
Level 4 travel health notifications will only be issued in extraordinary circumstances, such as a rapid increase in case numbers or unusually high case counts, the introduction of a new variant of concern, or the collapse of the health infrastructure.
The new system will go into effect on April 18, and levels 3, 2, and 1 will continue to be determined primarily by 28-day incidence or case rates.
Travelers will have a more actionable warning when they should or should not travel to a particular destination with this updated setup.