The Transportation Security Administration’s federal mask mandate, which had been set to expire on Sept. 13, has been extended through the holiday season to Jan. 18 as a result of the significant spreading of the delta variant and vaccination rates that are not as high at this point as officials had hoped.
Those two factors have caused significant increases in COVID-19 cases throughout the United States.
This mandate not only applies to passengers en route to their destinations on trains, buses, planes, and other forms of transportation, even ride-shares, but also while inside all indoor areas at transportation hubs, such as train and bus stations and airports, and similar settings.
Exemptions only apply to those who are under 2 years of age and people of any age who have disabilities that result in them being unable to wear a mask.
Not all have followed the mask mandate up to this point. The Federal Aviation Administration also revealed on Tuesday, the same day that the TSA announced the extension of its federal mask mandate, that of the 3,889 incidents aboard planes that have involved unruly passengers so far this year, 74% of them – 2,867 – were in connection to a refusal to wear a mask when required to do so.
The number of confirmed new COVID-19 cases has reached a daily average of 140,000 over the past seven days, which is not only a 64% increase over just a couple of weeks earlier, but that rate is also the highest that it has been at any point in the past six months.
Meanwhile, a total of 51% of the American population is fully vaccinated with 60% at least partially vaccinated. In Canada, those respective percentages are notably higher: 65 and 73.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had planned to state that those who are vaccinated no longer needed to wear a mask in public settings, but, on July 27, it decided that it was not yet appropriate to do so and that everyone should still wear masks in public settings, vaccinated or not.
Travel settings are amongst the trickiest for individuals to navigate during a pandemic due to them being in close proximity to others they do not know, oftentimes for long periods of time.
Representatives from the U.S. Travel Association and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA voiced their support for the TSA extending this mask mandate into the new year.