President Biden will extend the mask mandate until mid-March according to a source familiar with the decision. This announcement is set on Thursday during his visit to the National Institutes of Health.
This decision is part of the Biden administration’s strategy to prevent COVID19 infection. The mask mandate requires travelers to use masks on airports, planes, trains, buses, and transit stations. On top of the extension to the mask mandate, there will be a new requirement for international travelers.
International travelers will be tested for COVID19 a day before their departure for the US according to CDC officials.
A New Variant
On Wednesday, health officials in California confirmed the first case of the omicron variant in the US. The individual traveled from South Africa and arrived in the US on November 22. The individual completed his COVID19 vaccine doses and only had mild symptoms. Health authorities then conducted an aggressive contact tracing. The CDC said that close contacts tested negative.
Biden already announced a stricter travel restriction on individuals traveling to the US from southern African countries. Earlier this week, Biden said that the new restriction will buy health experts more time to understand the new variant.
Experts still don’t know a lot of things about the omicron variant. However, health experts worry about the number of mutations found in the omicron variant. Experts are concerned that it is more transmissible and existing vaccines are less effective against the variant.
Unruly Passengers and the Mask Mandate
Unfortunately, many oppose the mask mandate. Mask-wearing onboard planes has agitated a number of airline passengers. In September, the Transportation Security Administration announced that the agency will double the penalty for passengers who will refuse to follow the federal mask mandate.
Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said that flight attendants worry about violent passengers. Nelson said that “We’re concerned every single day when we go to work and put that uniform on”.
In TSA’s latest count, there are over 5,400 unruly passenger reports for this year. More than 3,900 cases involved passengers refusing to wear their masks properly.