The current requirements, which have been in place since February 2021, are set to expire April 18. The latest extension would keep the requirements through May 3 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. A formal announcement is expected later on Wednesday.
A person briefed on the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted the increase in COVID-19 cases. The extension, the source said, will give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention time “to assess the potential impact, the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity.”
Industry groups and Republican lawmakers want the White House to immediately end the 14-month-old mask mandate.
Airlines for America, a trade group, on Wednesday in a letter continued to urge Biden’s administration “to lean into science and research, which clearly support lifting the mask mandate. … It makes no sense to require masks on a plane when masks are not recommended in places like restaurants, bars or crowded sports facilities.”
The CDC in February eased its guidance for face covering and now says nearly all of the U.S. population lives in counties where they do not need to wear masks indoors.
The U.S. Senate voted 57-40 last month to overturn the public health order requiring masks on airplanes and other forms of public transportation, drawing a veto threat from Biden.
The mask requirements have resulted in friction sometimes on U.S. airplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration said that since January 2021, there have been a record 7,060 unruly passenger incidents reported – and 70% involved masking rules.
The administration has also considering lifting requirements that international visitors get a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel, as many countries have dropped testing requirements, but is not taking any immediate steps. The United States requires foreign air travelers to be vaccinated.
(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Will Dunham and Chizu Nomiyama)