The Biden administration announced that it is extending the nationwide mask requirement for airplanes and public transit until at least Tuesday, May 3, as it monitors an increase in COVID-19 cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was extending the order, which was set to expire April 18, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the United States, per U.S. News & World Report. There has been a slight increase in cases in recent weeks, with daily confirmed cases nationwide rising from about 25,000 per day to more than 30,000; more than 85% of those cases are the highly contagious BA.2 strain.
"In order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC order will remain in place at this time," the agency said in a statement.
Separately, the Biden administration also extended for 90 days a public health emergency that has been in effect since early 2020. That allows temporary continuation of a range of public health measures that do have broad support, from more generous Medicaid coverage to flexibility around telehealth.