The Transportation Security Administration has issued an “emergency amendment” that extends the requirement that passengers wear face masks across all U.S. transportation networks through Sept. 13. The initial executive order went into effect on Feb. 1, with an expiration date of May 11. The mask mandate applies to commercial aircraft, bus and rail systems, as well as airports and other transportation hubs.
As more travelers are vaccinated and travel volume increases, keeping safeguards in place will minimize the spread of Covid-19 on public transportation, explained a statement from the TSA. The agency will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the need for these directives, said a TSA official.
The CDC recently announced that fully vaccinated individuals can travel safely within the U.S., but the agency's guidelines still advise that they wear a face mask, socially distance, and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. The extension of the face-mask requirement is consistent with this most recent CDC guidance.
While this announcement extends the date of enforcement, all other aspects of the requirement remain unchanged, including exemptions and civil penalties. Exemptions to the face mask requirement for travelers under the age of 2 years old and those with specific disabilities will continue. The existing fine structure also will remain in place, which starts at $250 and rises to $1,500 for repeat offenders who violate the face-mask requirement.
Covid-Safety Measures Continue at TSA Checkpoints
At TSA checkpoints, all security-screening officers will continue to wear face masks and gloves. Acrylic barriers remain in place at most airports, and new technology in place at hundreds of checkpoints reduces the need for physical contact between officers and travelers.
Those who haven’t traveled in the past year will notice some changes in the TSA screening process. Officers who check travelers’ documents request that they temporarily lower their face masks to verify their identity. Those who approach the checkpoint without a face mask are asked to wear one in order to proceed. Those who refuse to do so are not permitted to enter the secure area of the airport, which includes the terminal and gate area.
One hand-sanitizer container of up to 12 oz. per person continues to be allowed temporarily in carry-on bags while all other liquid, gels and aerosols must meet the 3-1-1 rule.
Individuals who require screening assistance due to a disability, medical condition or other special circumstance should contact TSA Cares at least 72 hours in advance of their flight.