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March 10, 2022

Passengers on airliners and public transportation will be required to wear face masks at least until April 18, the Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday.

TSA’s mask mandate, imposed to help stop the spread of COVID-19, had been scheduled to expire March 18. The rule went into effect in February 2021 and was extended twice. People can be fined if they don’t wear masks on planes, trains, buses, and ships or in airports, train and bus stations, and ports.

“At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18th,” a statement from the TSA said.

“During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor. This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change.”

Many state and local governments are dropping face mask rules as the Omicron surge subsides. A recent shift in federal COVID guidance means the large majority of Americans now live in places where face masks are not required in indoor public spaces.

Airlines and lobby groups such as the American Public Transportation Association urged the Biden administration to let the mandate lapse.

“For the past two years, public transportation agencies have supported and enforced federal policies created to combat COVID-19,” APTA said in a letter to the White House. “We believe these efforts played an important part in our nation’s collective fight against COVID-19. However, an extension of the mask mandate beyond March 18 is likely to increase the growing enforcement challenges faced by public transit agencies today.”

The Association of Flight Attendants supported an extension of the mask rule. The union said letting it expire would put some passengers in danger, such as the children under 5 who haven’t been vaccinated, according to Bloomberg.

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