The U.S. will extend its mask mandate for air and train travel for two weeks, allowing time to monitor an uptick in cases of COVID-19, according to a person familiar with the matter.
About 30,000 new COVID cases a day are being recorded in the U.S., most of them caused by omicron’s BA.2 subvariant, and the figure has been increasing. Experts say it’s likely to be an underestimate, as more people are using at-home tests that aren’t captured in national data.
The travel masking rule, set to expire after April 18, has been strictly enforced even as cities, states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have eased their requirements and recommendations. New White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha said Monday on NBC’s “Today” show that the CDC is preparing a scientific framework to help determine the future of the travel mandate.
Airlines see the mask rule as a hindrance that puts their staff in an enforcement role and have been pushing the administration to end it. However, as COVID case numbers rise in some parts of the U.S., a few places have brought back mandates. Philadelphia said it will reinstate its mask rule starting April 18.
Even with the mandate in place, bookings have been recovering for air travel, with Delta Airlines projecting a robust summer season, lifting stocks across the industry on Wednesday.
The Associated Press reported the news earlier.