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Wearing a face mask in the summer will continue to be a requirement at airports, on board commercial flights and in other public transportation across the country.
The mandate of the federal mask, which was due to expire on May 11, will remain in force until September 13, according to updated guidelines issued by the Transport Security Administration on Friday.
The rule, which also applies to buses and rail systems, was first introduced by President Biden shortly after he took office in January.
For about a year now, major US commercial airlines have required all passengers over the age of 2 to wear face masks in flight. Politics has provoked some reaction from people who refuse to wear their masks, often delaying flights.
The extension of the TSA comes as the average number of confirmed U.S. cases of COVID-19 and coronavirus deaths continue to decline.
“The requirement for a federal mask in the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in public transportation,” TSA senior official Darby LaJoy said in a statement.
“We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess the need for these directives and to recognize the significant level of compliance to date,” she added.
This week alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that people who are fully vaccinated should not wear a mask when outdoors unless they are in a crowd.
According to the NPR vaccine tracker, over 40% of the US population received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and about 30% were fully vaccinated. CDC data also project that nearly 85% of the country can be fully vaccinated by the end of August.
The number of trips is also growing. The TSA reported that 1.56 million people traveled through airports on Friday, up from about 171,000 on the same day in 2020. Just weeks earlier, the TSA had reported its highest point of air travel since the pandemic began with over 1.58 million people traveling. However, the figures remain significantly lower than in 2019.
In early April, the CDC announced that Americans who were fully vaccinated could travel safely to the United States while still wearing a mask and social distance. The guide specifically notes that impossible trips should continue to be avoided whenever possible.
While the prospect of Americans traveling abroad faces additional hurdles, fully vaccinated Americans will be eligible to travel to countries within the European Union this summer. Travel to the United States from much of Europe is currently restricted.
Several international travel bans remain in place in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil and other countries from which the contagious variants of the virus originate.
India is the last country to face increased restrictions from the United States, following the continuing influx of COVID-19 cases across the country. The ban on travelers from India will officially enter into force on Tuesday.