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Biden Administration to Extend Mask Mandates on Planes and Public Transportation Until Mid-April

Biden Administration to Extend Mask Mandates on Planes and Public Transportation Until Mid-April

Federal officials began notifying stakeholders in the airline industry earlier this week of the upcoming announcement that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is set to extend the federal public transportation mask mandate another 30 days,  pointing to guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The mandate is one of the last remaining broad requirements that Americans wear masks in public places. It applies to mass transportation including planes, trains, buses, and hubs like airports.

Flight crew unions applauded the measure, which now extends to April 18th, for protecting flight attendants who can not avoid close contact with scores of passengers. The requirement was previously set to expire a week from Friday, and the policy will be reviewed over the next month, CNN reported on Thursday.

Requiring masks on airplanes has proven to be a divisive and often dangerous issue. Some passengers refused to comply, leading to more than 4,800 reports to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of passengers who turned disruptive or violent while flouting the mask rule. The agency adopted a zero-tolerance approach to in-flight outbursts, which surged during the pandemic.

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Some in the airline industry have described concerns about lifting the mandate too soon, ahead of another wave of the coronavirus. Flight attendants have overwhelmingly supported wearing masks during flights, with some saying they’d be fine with requiring passengers to be masked forever. “While more of the world now has access to life-saving vaccines, we still have a significant portion of the population that [is] vulnerable, including our youngest passengers,” says Paul Hartshorn, a spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines employees. “Our youngest passengers do not yet have access to the vaccine,” says Taylor Garland, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents employees of several major and regional airlines. “The airplane is a unique but controlled environment for everyone’s safety. The layered approach to safety and security includes masks.”

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