TSA Extends Nationwide Mask Requirement Into 2022

Don't expect to fly anywhere without a mask anytime soon.

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With COVID-19 cases surging across the nation yet again, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it's extending its federal transportation mask mandate. That means if you're planning on traveling by plan, train, or other means of public transportation any time between now through early 2022, you should expect to mask up whether you're vaccinated or not.

The TSA's mask mandate will be in effect until at least January 18, 2022, according to Reuters. It was initially set to expire in mid-September. TSA, which saw 2 million travelers in a single day for the first time in roughly a year back in June, said in a statement its goal with the mask mandate is "to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation." The agency's decision is in line with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mask requirements apply to airports, and aircrafts, as well as any trains and buses.

"The emerging evidence about the Delta variant demonstrates it is more formidable than the original virus. Delta spreads more than twice as easily from one person to another, compared with earlier strains," the CDC said in a statement. "In contrast to the Alpha strain, new data shows that fully vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta variant might be infectious and might potentially spread the virus to others."

Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president, said in a statement that the TSA's decision to extend mask mandates "will help tremendously to keep passengers and aviation workers safe." While CNBC reports that airline executives said most people are complying with mask mandates, the Federal Aviation Administration has seen an uptick in incidents related to mask mandates and rules.

"We all look forward to the day masks are no longer required, but we're not there yet," Nelson said.

The FAA dealt with 3,889 unruly passengers in the last year. Almost 74% of those incidents had to do with mask mandates. TSA told Congress in July there have been more than 85 physical assaults on TSA officers since the start of the pandemic in 2020. As a result of the increase in incidents, the FAA was forced to crack down and introduce its new "zero tolerance" policy. The agency handed out hefty fines to passengers involved in incidents on airplanes and in airports. 

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it—find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.