Mask mandates on transit expected to be extended into March: report

·2 min read

Mask mandates for transit - including on planes, trains and buses - are expected to be extended into March in the United States, sources confirmed to Reuters.

The Biden administration is expected to announce an extension on Thursday through March 18, 2022, sources told the news outlet. The news comes just hours after the U.S. detected its first confirmed case of the new COVID-19 omicron variant.

A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told The Hill they did not have anything at this time regarding a new extension.

The TSA has extended its mask mandate for travelers taking different modes of transportation several times. The mask mandate was first imposed in January in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The latest extension of the transit mask mandate occurred in August and was set to expire after Jan. 18.

However, the world is now grappling with a new COVID-19 variant that the World Health Organization (WHO) last week labeled a "variant of concern."

The U.S., United Kingdom and Israel are among the countries that put in place travel restrictions in response to the variant.

The heads of both the United Nations and WHO spoke out against the travel bans on Wednesday, while public health experts have warned such measures might dissuade countries from sharing COVID-19 information in the future

However, President Biden's chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, has defended the measures.

"Travel bans, when you have a highly transmissible virus, never completely ... prevent it from coming into the country. No way that's going to happen," Fauci told host George Stephanopoulos during an interview on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "But what you can do is you can delay it enough to get us better prepared."

The Hill has reached out to the White House and Department of Transportation for comment.

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