The Biden administration is extending a federal mask mandate covering air, train, and bus transportation into next year.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Tuesday that the agency was extending President Joe Biden’s mask mandate through at least January 18, 2022, according to Reuters. As one of his first acts in office, Biden put the mask mandate in place and has now extended it twice to keep it in place for nearly an entire year.
“The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” a TSA spokesperson said.
The Associated Press reported: “The mask mandate has been controversial and has led to many encounters between passengers who don’t want to wear a mask and flight attendants asked to enforce the rule. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that airlines have reported 3,889 incidents involving unruly passengers this year, and 2,867 — or 74% — involved refusing to wear a mask.”
The TSA has not backed off its mask order despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear a mask except on rare occasions. The CDC later revised its guidance again, offering more restrictive advice and telling even fully vaccinated people in the majority of counties to wear a mask indoors.
GOP lawmakers are pushing back on the CDC’s guidance and the TSA regulations. Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Kevin Cramer (ND) introduced legislation last week that would ban mandatory masking or vaccination regulations. Cruz said in a statement:
Thanks to vaccinations and the natural immunity of Americans who have recovered from COVID-19, America is reopening. America is recovering, our kids are going back to school, and small businesses are returning as our nation’s economic heartbeat. At the same time, President Biden is imposing unscientific and burdensome mandates to control Americans’ lives.
We as a country have taken extraordinary steps to defeat this disease, and I’m proud we’ve taken these steps. Unfortunately, we have also imposed enormous harms on our economy and people’s lives and livelihoods, and we need to balance all of this appropriately. My view on vaccines is simple. I got the vaccine because it was the right choice for me. But I also believe in individual freedom. No one should force anyone to take the vaccine-including the federal government or an employer. Americans should have the choice to make their own medical decisions in consultation with their doctor.
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. 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.