President Joe Biden’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on Tuesday that it would be extending its order requiring masks for all travelers on public planes, trains, and buses in the U.S. until Jan. 18, 2022.
The current order had previously been scheduled to expire on Sept. 13, CNBC reported. But the spread of the so-called delta variant of the coronavirus apparently led the agency to extend the policy through mid-January.
“The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” a statement from the TSA reads, according to Axios.
Of course, the mandate hasn’t come without controversy.
According to CNBC, “[t]he Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] said it has received 3,889 unruly passenger reports this year through Monday, nearly 74% of them related to violations of the mask mandate.”
Some travelers have even gotten violent with officials, reports said. Reuters reported that “TSA last month told Congress that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic there have been over 85 physical assaults on TSA officers.”
In addition to orders on masks, Reuters notes that the Biden administration has also opted to keep in place ongoing travel restrictions “that bar most non-U.S. citizens from the United States.”
“No vaccine passports”
It all has Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Kevin Cramer (ND), up in arms. According to The Daily Wire, the pair “introduced legislation last week that would ban mandatory masking or vaccination regulations” at the federal level.
“To protect the rights and privacy of Americans, I’ve introduced legislation that would prohibit federal COVID mandates. This means no mask mandates, no vaccine mandates, and no vaccine passports,” Cruz said in a statement, according to The Daily Wire.
He went on: “My legislation also provides civil rights protections for employees from their employers, to stop discrimination based on vaccination status. The American people must have the freedom to exercise personal choice when it comes to protecting their health and the health of their families.”
Despite the frustration expressed by these GOP senators and many travelers across the U.S., it’s worth noting that restrictions here are less stringent than in some other nations. According to Reuters, Canada recently announced it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all airline travelers.
Meanwhile, some airlines even in the U.S. have begun requiring employees to be vaccinated for the coronavirus. United Airlines announced earlier in August it will require its more than 67,000 U.S. workers to get the shots, Reuters reported.