The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans, and some states have rescinded mask mandates.
But masks will still be a must if you’re traveling by plane, train or bus this summer.
The Transportation Security Administration on Friday extended its face mask requirement for airplanes, airports, trains, commuter rail systems and other modes of transportation through Sept. 13.
The mandate, which began Feb. 1, was due to expire May 11.
“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” Darby LaJoye, a senior TSA official, said in a statement. “Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot, and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”
The TSA said exemptions to the face mask requirement for travelers under age 2 and those with certain disabilities will continue. So, too, will the fines for not complying with the requirement. The fines start at $250 and top out at $1,500 for repeat offenders.
Flight attendants, airlines and others have been pushing for an extension.
The president of the largest flight attendants union said during a U.S. Senate subcommittee meeting earlier this month that airlines still need the backing of the federal government to enforce passenger compliance with their mask requirements.
“We are still in the middle of the crisis,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said during a meeting of the Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation subcommittee of the Senate Commerce committee. “I do think it’s important that we recognize that and stay the course here with the mask policies, with all of our diligence (and) with the efforts to get the vaccine out to everyone.”
Airlines began requiring masks early in the pandemic but have faced resistance from a minority of passengers and long sought the federal government’s support.
A big concern as airlines are gradually resuming food and drink service, Nelson said: passengers will leave their masks off for long periods of time.