The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has extended a mandate that makes wearing face masks on public transport across the United States compulsory.
Travellers transiting at airports, on board commercial aircraft, buses, and rail systems must continue to wear face masks until at least September owing to the new ruling. The original mandate had been set to expire on May 11.
Supported by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the extension of the face mask policy is in line with recently announced CDC rules that state vaccinated travellers can travel safely within the US, but that individuals must continue to wear a face mask, socially distance and use hand sanitisers.
Exemptions to the face mask requirements remain for travellers under the age of two, and for those with certain disabilities.
“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimise the spread of Covid-19 on public transportation,” said Darby LaJoye, the senior official performing the duties of the TSA Administrator.
“Right now, about half of all adults [in the US] have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognise the significant level of compliance thus far.”
Any travellers who do not comply with the face mask mandate could face penalties with fines from $250 for a first offence, rising to $1,500 for repeat offenders.
The TSA has said that all travellers, including people considering international travel, should ensure they remain up to date with any changes to Covid-19 requirements by checking official websites of both the TSA and CDC prior to taking a trip.
Travellers who transit via airports will notice safety measures in place at all TSA checkpoints. These include security screening officers wearing face masks and gloves and acrylic barriers at most airports to cut down on interaction between travellers and staff.
Screening officers may ask travellers to temporarily lower their face mask to help verify their identity, but travellers must wear a face mask when approaching the travel document checker station. Any passengers without face masks will be not be permitted to enter the secure area of the airport, which includes the terminal and gate area.