If you’re traveling on planes, trains, or buses in the U.S. in the next four and a half months, you will still need to wear a face mask at almost all times.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Friday it is extending the face-mask requirement through Sept. 13 for individuals across all transportation networks throughout the country, amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. That includes mandating masks at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems.
TSA’s initial face-mask order went into effect on Feb. 1 and was supposed to expire May 11.
“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” Darby LaJoye, acting TSA Administrator, contended in a release. “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.”
The CDC recently announced that fully vaccinated travelers with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the U.S., but the CDC guidelines still require individuals to wear a face mask, socially distance, and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. The TSA says its extension of the face-mask directive is consistent with this most recent CDC guidance.
While this announcement extends the date of enforcement, all other aspects of the order 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 certain disabilities will continue, the TSA said. The existing civil penalty fine structure is also still in effect. Fines for violating the mask mandate start at $250 and rise to $1,500 for repeat offenders.
The TSA screening officer at the travel-document checker station will request that travelers temporarily lower their face mask to verify their identity, the agency said. Those who approach the station without a face mask will be asked to obtain one to move forward. Passengers who refuse to wear a mask will not be permitted to enter the secure area of the airport, which includes the terminal and gate area.