TSA to extend mask requirements for all travelers through September
The Transportation Security Administration announced on Friday that it will be extending mask requirements for all travelers through Sept. 13, 2021, according to an agency tweet.
"This includes at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems," the agency tweeted.
The TSA’s initial face mask requirement was put into effect on Feb. 1 and was set to expire on May 11, according to an agency news release.
FILE - Travelers check in with TSA at O'Hare International Airport on Nov. 25, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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"The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize 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 have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far," LaJoye said.
While the face mask requirement has been extended, it does not change the exemptions or civil penalties that come should someone choose not or cannot wear a face covering.
"Exemptions to the face mask requirement for travelers under the age of 2 years old and those with certain disabilities will continue. The existing civil penalty fine structure will also remain in place which starts at $250 and rises to $1,500 for repeat offenders who violate this face mask requirement," according to the TSA.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on April 2 that green-light people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel safely within the United States.
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The new guidelines said vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread the virus, but the CDC still recommends safety measures like wearing a mask, social distancing and hand washing.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three vaccines. The mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses spaced roughly a month apart, while the Johnson & Johnson shot only requires a single injection.
The CDC says its new guidelines only apply to travelers inoculated by FDA-approved vaccines.
Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel unless such testing is required by their destination. And quarantining is not necessary after the inoculation.
RELATED: CDC: Fully vaccinated Americans can do some outdoor activities without mask
The CDC also announced on April 27 that fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks outdoors unless they are in a big crowd of strangers — and those who are unvaccinated can go without a face covering outside in some cases, too.
The agency, which has been cautious in its guidance during the pandemic, essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing over the past several weeks. The guidance said that fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They also can go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with other fully vaccinated people.
"Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends in a park, as long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without a mask," President Joe Biden said in remarks after the new outdoor mask guidelines were shared.
But the CDC has differing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.
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Unvaccinated people — defined by the CDC as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson formula — should wear masks at outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. They also should keep using masks at outdoor restaurants.
Fully vaccinated people do not need to cover up in those situations, the CDC says. But everyone should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, the CDC says.
"This is another reason to go get vaccinated now," Biden said. "Go get the shot. It's never been easier."
The agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, museums and movie theaters.
Kelly Taylor Hayes contributed to this report.