President Joe Biden has made it clear that he is a devout believer in the use of face masks as a precaution against COVID-19, as his administration has mandated masking where it has the authority to do so and strongly urged masking everywhere else.
One of those mandatory mask mandates — on commercial and public transportation — has just been extended through mid-September, Breitbart reported.
The move was announced Friday on Twitter by Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has federal jurisdiction over most forms of commercial and public transit across the nation.
“[email protected] is extending the face mask requirement for individuals across all transportation modes throughout the U.S., including at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on public buses and on commuter bus and rail systems. That date is now extended from May 11 to Sept. 13. mask-up!” Farbstein tweeted.
Order extended to mid-September
The TSA extension of the mask mandate appears to be related to an executive order issued by President Biden on his first full day in office which decreed that masks must be worn by all people at all times during domestic and international travel.
That order tasked the TSA, among other relevant federal agencies, to implement and enforce compliance with the mandate in all “airports; commercial aircraft; trains; public maritime vessels, including ferries; intercity bus services; and all forms of public transportation.”
The order was further deemed applicable to both domestic and international travel, whether by air, land, or sea.
Financial penalties for noncompliance
According to The Washington Post, the TSA pointed to guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the basis for the extension of the mask mandate until Sept. 13, as the initially ordered mandate was set to expire on May 11.
“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” senior TSA official Darby LaJoye said in a statement. “About half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic.”
There are very few exceptions to the mandate, namely children under two and those with certain disabilities. On all others the mandate can be enforced with penalties for noncompliance, including an initial fine of $250 and fine of $1,500 for repeat offenders, as well as removal from the particular mode of transportation.
Union cheers extension
Breitbart noted that the labor union representing commercial air flight attendants, the Association of Flight Attendants, had lobbied the Biden administration for an extension to the mask mandate. The Post noted that the flight attendants wanted the backstop of the federal mandate to aid in their own enforcement of mask-wearing requirements.
“We’ve made tremendous efforts to get the pandemic under control, but we’re not quite there yet,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the AFA-CWA. “Continuing the TSA enforcement directive for the mask mandate will keep passengers and aviation workers safe.”