Travelers Must Wear Masks Through Mid-September, TSA Says

by Erica Gerald Mason
travel covid mask tsa

TSA’s new timeline comes before what’s expected to be a busy summer travel season

As more Americans receive the coronavirus vaccine and make plans to travel over the upcoming summer months, the Transportation Security Administration extended its mask mandate. The rule continues to require that all travelers wear masks at airports, on airplanes, and on commuter bus and train systems. Originally due to expire on May 11, the mandate now extends through Sept. 13.

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” Darby LaJoye, a spokesperson, said in a statement posted on the TSA website.

The previous order took effect in February and was a part of the Biden administration’s goal to require masks on federal property for 100 days. The mask rule doesn’t apply to travelers under the age of 2 nor to those with a small subset of disabilities that don’t allow them to wear a mask safely.

Critics caution that travel will continue to introduce new strains of COVID-19 to communities.

“One concern for highly vaccinated countries is the potential emergence — or introduction — of COVID variants against which current vaccines are less effective,” says Adam Kucharski, epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “So by definition, vaccine passports allowing quarantine-free travel will have a limited impact on this problem.”

Others are looking forward to flying again.

“First flight since I caught COVID in New York and flew back with it to KC on March 14, 2020,” a Twitter post reads. “Weird feeling being in an airport for someone who flew for work and pleasure so often and it’s now been 13 months. Thrilled to be fully vaccinated, masked, and ready to travel!”

The news comes as the cruise industry announced plans to resume operations over the summer.

“Before sailing, ships have to meet the CDC’s COVID health and safety requirements, but that doesn’t mean boarding a cruise ship is without risk,” USA Today Travel tweeted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened mask guidelines earlier this week, announcing that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear a mask outside, while doing activities alone, or while in small gatherings. The CDC stopped short of not advocating for masks outside altogether and still strongly recommends wearing a mask indoors.

The travel industry began requiring travelers to wear masks about a year ago, reports The New York Times, but the companies had no federal mandate to support their in-house rules. As the directive’s expiration date got closer, officials in the airline industry started to ask the Biden administration for an extension.

The New York Times reports the Association of Flight Attendants cheered the continuation of the mask mandate in a statement. Earlier this month, the AFA called for the mask directive to be extended to make it easier for airline employees to deal with passengers who did not comply with mask rules that had been set by either airlines or airports.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.