When Hawaii’s indoor mask mandate goes away March 26, there will be no U.S. state left with a blanket mask mandate in place. But you’ll still need one when you get on a plane. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is extending the federal airplane and public transportation mask mandate through April 18.
With a small percentage of Americans currently living in a place with a high COVID case rate, the CDC has dropped its recommendation for masks indoors. But with the transportation mandate set to expire March 18, the TSA extended it a month to give the CDC time to develop more targeted measures to prevent virus spreading among travelers who could take it all over the country.
“If you’re moving from one zone to another and picking people up … it’s a little bit different, and that requires some consultation, which is what (CDC officials) are going to endeavor to do between now and April 18,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
The TSA will fine first-time violators $1,000 and repeat offenders $3,000.
Airlines, which had imposed their own mask rules before the Biden administration imposed a federal mandate upon taking office in January 2021, have grown weary of dealing with unruly passengers who — sometimes violently — refuse to comply with the rules.
“I would love to see it expire on (March) 18th,” JetBlue founder David Neeleman told The Associated Press. “It puts a lot of stress on our flight crews, and it puts stress on our passengers.”
If the rule is allowed to expire and another variant proves to be highly contagious and cause severe disease, reimposing a mask mandate would be difficult once travelers are used to not needing one. While deaths are a lagging indicator, more than 1,000 Americans per day are still dying of COVID-related illness.
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